Researchers from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), a public technical university in the Netherlands, have shown how the energy yield of relatively cheap solar panels made of amorphous silicon can be considerably raised from around 7 to 9 percent.

Researcher Gijs van Elzakker focused on solar panels that are made from so-called amorphous silicon, as opposed to the more commonly used crystalline silicon. Amorphous silicon allows the solar panels to be produced relatively cheaply using a very thin layer of silicon (thin-film solar cells). 
The major disadvantage of solar panels made with amorphous silicon is that their yield is relatively low. While crystalline silicon achieves a yield of around 18 percent, amorphous silicon, until recently, remained at around 7 percent.

In his doctoral research, van Elzakker investigated adaptations in the production process that could raise the yield. The silicon layer in the solar panels he studied is made of silane gas. The structure of the silicon layer can be changed by diluting this silane gas with hydrogen during production, which may mitigate the panels losing efficiency after a short period of time.

“If this knowledge is applied in the manufacture of this type of solar cells, a yield of 9 percent can be expected,” van Elzakker said.

Van Elzakker’s findings are already being applied on the production line of the German company Inventux Technologies, where he now works.