Stress-related failure such as cracking are an important photovoltaic (PV) reliability issue since it accounts for a high percentage of power losses in the midlife-failure and wear-out failure regimes. Cell cracking can only be correlated with module degradation when cracks are of detectable size and detrimental to the performance. Several techniques have been explored to access the deflection and stress status on solar cell, but they have disadvantages such as high surface sensitivity.
This dissertation presents a new and non-destructive method for mapping the deflection on encapsulated solar cells using X-ray topography (XRT). This method is based on Bragg diffraction imaging, where only the areas that meet diffraction conditions will present contrast. By taking XRT images of the solar cell at various sample positions and applying an in-house developed algorithm framework, the cell‘s deflection map is obtained. Error analysis has demonstrated that the errors from the experiment and the data processing are below 4.4 and 3.3%.
Von Karman plate theory has been applied to access the stress state of the solar cells. Under the assumptions that the samples experience pure bending and plain stress conditions, the principal stresses are obtained from the cell deflection data. Results from a statistical analysis using a Weibull distribution suggest that 0.1% of the data points can contribute to critical failure. Both the soldering and lamination processes put large amounts of stress on solar cells. Even though glass/glass packaging symmetry is preferred over glass/backsheet, the solar cells inside the glass/glass packaging experience significantly more stress. Through a series of in-situ four-point bending test, the assumptions behind Von Karman theory are validated for cases where the neutral plane is displaced by the tensile and compressive stresses.
The deflection and stress mapping method is applied to two next generation PV concepts named Flex-circuit and PVMirror. The Flex-circuit module concept replaces traditional metal ribbons with Al foils for electrical contact and PVMirror concept utilizes a curved PV module design with a dichroic film for thermal storage and electrical output. The XRT framework proposed in this dissertation successfully characterized the impact of various novel interconnection and packaging solutions.