An investigation of microindenter-induced crack evolution with independent variation of both temperature and relative humidity has been pursued in PV-grade Si wafers. Under static tensile strain conditions, an increase in subcritical crack elongation with increasing atmospheric water content was observed. To provide further insight into the potential physical and chemical conditions at the microcrack tip, micro-Raman measurements were performed. Preliminary results confirm a spatial variation in the frequency of the primary Si vibrational resonance within the cracktip region, associated with local stress state, whose magnitude is influenced by environmental conditions during the period of applied static strain. The experimental effort was paired with molecular dynamics (MD) investigations of microcrack evolution in single-crystal Si to furnish additional insight into mechanical contributions to crack elongation. The MD results demonstrate that crack-tip energetics and associated crack elongation velocity and morphology are intimately related to the crack and applied strain orientations with respect to the principal crystallographic axes. The resulting elastic strain energy release rate and the stress-strain response of the Si under these conditions form the basis for preliminary micro-scale peridynamics (PD) simulations of microcrack development under constant applied strain. These efforts will be integrated with the experimental results to further inform the mechanisms contributing to this important degradation mode in Si-based photovoltaics.
Lifecycle testing of full-scale photovoltaic (PV) modules was conducted in a large-sized, accelerated-degradation chamber in our labs that enables full-solar-spectrum irradiance, temperature, and humidity control. In-situ measurement of both polycrystalline and monocrystalline silicon PV module energy conversion characteristics were examined under environmental lifecycle conditions representative of Tucson, AZ. Specifically, the performance degradation of a Hanwha 295 W polycrystalline PV module and of a SunPower 320 W monocrystalline PV module were evaluated and compared. Results indicate that the initial efficiency of the polycrystalline module and the subsequent annual degradation occurred within expected ranges for that system. In contrast, the single-crystal module exhibited both a significant decrease in PV module efficiency during the test cycle, and early evidence of environmentally-induced materials degradation across the module. The temperature and time-dependence of PV module behavior were extracted to provide insight into early-stage performance degradation under conditions approximating field-relevant environments.
The impact of combined environment conditions (mechanical state, temperature, and relative humidity) on microcrack propagation characteristics in p-type monocrystalline, photovoltaic-grade Si wafers was examined. A four-point bend apparatus was used to impose static strain conditions in 280 micron thick monocrystalline Si wafers containing microindentation-initiated crack centers. The specimen under test was simultaneously subjected to varied temperature and relative humidity conditions within a controlled environment chamber. Microcrack length was monitored after exposure to two sets of temperature and relative humidity conditions (i.e. 20℃ and 33%, 40℃ and 60% respectively) using scanning electron microscopy. Two primary stages of crack elongation behavior were observed under both of the combined environment conditions. Specifically, an early-time, more rapid growth period occurred, followed by more limited crack growth at later times. The deceleration of crack propagation is consistent with stress relaxation accompanying crack elongation under the constant strain conditions imposed. In general, an increase in the average microcrack propagation rate within both growth rate ranges and in the final overall change in average crack length was observed under elevated temperature and humidity conditions. These findings support the probable role of local crack-tip environment on microcrack evolution.