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Materion’s Role in Solar Power

Let the Sun Shine!

Evolving Over Centuries

The use of concentrated solar power is said to date back to the time of Archimedes. As the legend plays out, Archimedes used a set of mirrors to concentrate and direct sunlight onto an invading Roman fleet in 212 BC causing it to catch fire. Today, parabolic CSP mirrors produce steam to power engines that generate electricity.

Photovoltaic technology was born in the US in 1954 when scientists at Bell Laboratories created the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell. The first solar cell was capable of converting enough of the sun’s energy into power to run everyday electrical equipment. While solar cells still produce power in this manner, more recently developed concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) cells far surpass the originals in power generation. The development of thin film solar brought commercial viability and rapid energy payback to solar power plants.

Role of Materion Materials

Solar panels on the roofs of houses, atop new buildings or spread across open farm land are becoming a common sight across the US as it strives for cleaner energy. While the technology that makes them possible is relatively straightforward – the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials – production of these photovoltaic systems is less simple. Solar panels/cells are comprised of multiple parts that entail the use of a variety of metals, chemicals and minerals.

Materion contributes a broad range of specialized materials used in various solar components. These items comprise the fundamental building blocks that power homes, municipalities and satellites.

We offer customized materials for thin film, concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies. Whatever the application, it is critical that materials be of the highest quality. That factor maximizes performance and durability of absorbers, heliostat reflectors, antireflective coatings, back contacts & interconnects, buffers, high temperature coatings, TCO thin films and reflective mirror coatings. Materion prides itself on the high purity level and optimized microstructure of its materials.

From an elemental and chemical compound point of view, following are some of the precious metal, non-precious metal or inorganic chemicals Materion supplies for solar applications.

CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) Materials

  • Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3), Durable antireflective material for transparent oxide layers
  • Silver (Ag), Silver metal and metal alloys for reflector technologies
  • Titanium dioxide(TiO2), Material for antireflective layers

TF (Thin Film) Solar Cells

Cadmium (Cd), Cd based materials such as cadmium sulfide, cadmium- -zinc-telluride and cadmium-tin are typical examples:

  • CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide), Complete compound for thin film solar cells
  • Copper (Cu), Cu metal and Cu containing compounds for thin film solar cells
  • Gallium (Ga), Ga metal and Ga containing compounds for thin film solar cells
  • Indium (In), Metal evaporation materials, and In compounds for thin film solar cells, as well as solder for sputtering target bonding
  • Selenium (Se), On an R&D scale, Se metal and Se containing compounds for thin film solar cells
  • Tellurium (Te), Along with cadmium and / or zinc telluride for thin film solar cells


CPV (Concentrated Photovoltaic) Materials

  • Gold (Au), Au metal and metal alloys used for interconnects and back contacts in solar cells
  • Silver (Ag), Ag metal and metal alloys used for interconnects and back contacts in solar cells
  • Zinc arsenide (Zn3As2), Precursor raw material used to manufacture the gallium arsenide substrates

 

Sunny Future

Future initiatives hope to turn the sun’s energy into an endless, convenient supply of electricity. Since the price of land for building solar panel “farms” is a major part of its cost, increasing the power efficiency within smaller a footprint is crucial. Plans for “floating” solar panels on water bodies and transmitting wirelessly from space satellites are just a few ideas that would reduce dependence on acreage.

While scientists address concepts for better utilization of the sun’s energy, Materion R&D is developing materials that will enhance and surpass current materials for solar applications. If you have questions about our solar materials, please contact James Paloucek, Product Marketing Manager, James.Paloucek@Materion.com.