Photovoltaics have always been mainly (over 80%) based on c-Si solar cells, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. The module technology used for connecting and protecting these cells likewise has been established already quite some time ago and has proven its worth with operational lifetimes exceeding 20 years in harsh outdoor conditions.
However, cost (and other) considerations are continuously pushing technology development towards higher performance, longer lifetimes and cheaper materials and processing. But while this pressure has in the past mostly been focused on cell development, module technology is considered to hold still additional potential for improvements.
The currently standard module technology is based on soldering the cells into a long series-interconnected strings, with 3 bypass diodes across every 20 cells to protect the cells against excessive local heating due to power dissipation during partial shading. This layout is geared towards peak performance and takes less into account realistic outdoor conditions involving dynamic (partial) shading scenarios.
In this topic, we want to investigate the potential for improving this basic layout. On the one hand we consider different topologies (connection patterns such as hybrids between series and parallel connections), on the other hand we incorporate additional electronic components as switches and local DC-DC convertors to be able to harvest the maximum possible amount of energy in realistic outdoor conditions.
On a practical level for implementation, the conceived solutions have to take into account the boundary conditions imposed by the PV module technology (in parallel under development at imec), to allow seamless integration. Apart from devising the concept and fabrication of proof-of-concept demo modules, it is of course important to characterize the modules under controlled conditions, relevant to realistic outdoor operation of PV modules.
In summary, this PhD offer will focus on the development of technologies to integrate additional functionality within the PV-module to cope with inhomogeneous and fluctuating irradiation as well as differential ageing of the cells. This requires interest in component design, and basic insight into control theory. Simulation results will be translated into real-life demonstrator therefore circuit design and fabrication as well as PV module fabrication will be part of this PhD.
You are curious, autonomous and dynamic. You are a team player with strong feeling for/experience in practical work.
Type of work:
15% literature study, 25% modeling, 60% experimental.
Supervisor: Francky Catthoor and Jef Poortmans
Daily advisor: Francky Catthoor and Jef Poortmans
When you apply for this PhD project, mention the following reference code in the imec application form: ref. SE 1704-21.