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Nanotechnology Report

Encapsulation and Flexible Substrates for Thin-Film Photovoltaics

Category: Transport, Energy & Environment Published: Oct 2010 View Contents
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Electronic copies include a five user licence. Contact andrew.stewart@nano.org.uk for more information.

The high sensitivity to air and water vapor of thin-film PV (TFPV) is a factor that increasingly retards the market for this technology. TFPV got its big chance during the silicon shortage era, during which conventional crystalline silicon was held back by lack of availability of its main raw material.

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Now that the silicon shortage is over, there is a burden on the manufacturers of the newer forms of PV to find new ways to compete with c-Si modules. Newer forms of PV are often touted for their flexibility, but the fact is that today they consist overwhelmingly of fully glass-encapsulated modules. Rigid substrates also prevent new types of PV achieving cost advantages to the extent that they are barred from adopting R2R manufacturing processes. The apparently natural fit of TFPV for mobile PV and building integrated PV (BIPV) will also only be realized if more flexibility and higher performance encapsulation becomes possible.

Nonetheless, flexible PV options have been slow to develop, in many cases primarily because flexible encapsulation options are considered cost prohibitive or technically inferior. As a result there seems to be opportunities for materials firms to come up with improved encapsulation and substrate options; ones that enable TFPV to better meet its promise.

This report provides our analysis of the market for encapsulation and substrate materials, including a detailed eight-year forecast of the revenue opportunities that these materials present. We believe that this report will be essential reading for chemical, glass, polymer, and thin-film ceramic manufacturers as well as those seeking to ensure that they address photovoltaics encapsulation issues effectively.