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Company reports 'surface polarization' in solar cells

Posted: 24 Aug 2005     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:silicon solar cells 

SunPower Corp. said Monday that it has observed a new performance effect known as "surface polarization" in high-efficiency silicon solar cells that could significantly increase the amount of electricity produced by solar systems.

SunPower said surface polarizations create the non-destructive and reversible accumulation of static charge on the surface of high-efficiency solar cells. The effect occurs when minute amounts of electrical current leak through the face of the solar cell and accumulate on the surface, the company said.

According to SunPower (Sunnyvale, Calif.), current leakage of this sort is present in all solar systems but will accumulate or dissipate on the solar cells' surface depending on system grounding polarity and configuration. The presence or absence of surface charge can decrease or increase solar cell current generation in a fashion analogous to the switching of a programmable memory transistor, the company said.

SunPower said it found that electricity production in systems using high-efficiency solar cells could be significantly decreased or increased by varying the system wiring and grounding configurations, and that these performance changes were relatively rapid and completely reversible.

As the result of the company's discovery, SunPower scientists have developed and applied for patents on new solar cell and system designs that eliminate surface polarization.

"We believe that the surface polarization effect will be seen in many types of high-efficiency crystalline solar cells," said Dick Swanson, SunPower's founder and chief technology officer, in a statement. SunPower is a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

- Dylan McGrath

EE Times





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