Testing of Silicon Solar Cell Modules

(supervisor: Chris Finlayson)

Nature of project: experimental, instrumental

Available to full-time physicists or joint students.

Project description and methodology

This project will study the characteristics of commercially available silicon solar cells.[1] Firstly, a cell testing regime involving a full light-source calibration will be devised, as control. This will enable a robust set-up for the measurement of key performance parameters,such as open-circuit voltage, fill-factor, and power conversion efficiency.[2]

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
There are a number of areas in which the project might be expanded into a further substantive study; these might include.

1. Concentrators;[3] a number of different geometric designs will be explored, with both lens and mirror arrays, to concentrate light onto the same sized area of solar cell. The experiments conducted on each design would investigate the impact on solar cell output performance.

2. Characterisation of the cell performance under different illumination conditions, and the effects (if any) of heating due to the incident infra-red light component.

3. Characterisation of the cell performance as a function of spectral response using filters and/or gratings to measure the "action spectrum"[4] as a function of photon wavelength.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. M.A. Green, J. Mat. Sci, Materials in Electronics, Vol. 18, pp 15-19 (2007)
  2. http://plasticphotovoltaics.org/lc/characterization/lc-measure.html
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrator_photovoltaics
  4. http://www.pveducation.org/pvcdrom/solar-cell-operation/spectral-response

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

Students will need to be trained on a number of pieces of lab equipment and to observe basic safety protocols. Appropriate assistance and training will be given. The aims of the project as set out make it suitable for an average Y3 student.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Lab training and familarisationChristmas
Solar cell calibration and testingend of February
Experiment design and testingmid-March
Collation and analysisEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form