/Thermomechanical degradation modelling of PV modules exposed to marine environments (Floating photovoltaics under stress: Modelling reliability of marine FPV applications)

Thermomechanical degradation modelling of PV modules exposed to marine environments (Floating photovoltaics under stress: Modelling reliability of marine FPV applications)

PhD - Genk | More than two weeks ago

Exploring Thermo-mechanical Degradation and moisture ingress in Floating PV Technology: A Path to Sustainable Energy Solutions

With the rising demand for energy and the scarcity of traditional energy sources, there is a growing requirement for renewable energy. Nevertheless, the limited availability of suitable land presents a challenge to further expansion. Floating PV emerges as an attractive solution to address this constraint by utilizing unused water reservoirs for installations, thereby increasing the potential for renewable energy capacity. Floating PV offers several benefits, including the avoidance of land use, improved efficiency of PV modules due to reduced heat impact, minimal shading due to open spaces, reduced water evaporation, versatile applications like integration with fish farming, and a promising market outlook. However, the long-term durability of such installations requires more investigation due to the exposure to mechanical stresses from high winds and waves, increased moisture ingress, the presence of salt, and the potential for biological fouling. 

In this topic we want to mainly focus on the thermo-mechanical degradation of PV modules. Floating PV is affected by outdoor temperature variations and different thermal expansion coefficients of the laminate materials. Moreover, floating PV modules are subjected to strong winds with varied speed which may pose additional dynamic mechanical loads. Finally, wave movements add to the thermo-mechanical fatigue of the PV modules. 

In order to research the PhD topic described, a combination of simulations and experimental work is required in order to validate the resulting (thermo-)mechanical strains. Calculating internal stresses through the different laminate materials will be conducted with Finite Element Modelling (FEM) (i.e. COMSOL Multiphysics). These models are extending the work from previous projects (MarineSPOTS, ClickFloat, DAPPER) and can be further expanded and improved. To validate models, various experiments will be carried out, such as thermal cycling, humidity freeze and vibration tests, within the Hasselt University, imec and EnergyVille facilities. Moreover, temperature gradients and internal strains may be measured by an in-house developed technology utilizing Fiber Bragg sensors. Different bills of materials (e.g. glass, encapsulant, clamping types) and the impact of other environmental stressors (such as humidity and salt) on the laminate material properties can be added to these models, according to the research interests of the PhD candidate. 

The project will take place within a diverse and international team comprising exceptionally talented scientists and engineers who are dedicated to advancing the future of PV technology. The researcher will have at disposal a broad variety of equipment and will have the opportunity to collaborate with other universities and institutes, such as KU Leuven and VITO, providing the opportunity for further development. 


Required background: Materials Engineering

Type of work: 55% modeling/simulation, 25% experimental, 10% literature

Supervisor: Michael Daenen

Co-supervisor: Jef Poortmans

Daily advisor: Arnaud Morlier

The reference code for this position is 2024-104. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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