Fact Checked

What Are Solar Panels Made of?

What Are Solar Panels Made of?

Adding a solar panel system to your home or business will transform how you power your home, providing a way to save money, help the planet, and no longer rely on traditional electricity. While this is such an impactful change for many people, it is also a bit confusing. Learn what solar panels are made of and how they work to power your home. 

What Is in a Solar Panel?

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Consider how solar panels are made. Most solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will include crystalline silicon wafers. The main component of these wafers is silicon, which is derived from natural beach sand. The silicon works as a semiconductor. About 95% of all of the modern solar panels used today have this style. Others have organic photovoltaic cells and other technologies but are very much in development.

The solar panel semiconductors are what generate electricity for you. When sunlight strikes the solar panels, it causes electrons in the panels to get knocked loose. This is what starts the generation of electricity in the panels. This process – the movement of electrons like this – is called the photovoltaic effect.

There is more to solar panels than just PV cells, though. Most solar panels also include plastics, glass casing, metal framing, and wiring. Most of the time, the solar panel will have a glass layer over it. They also have an anti-reflective coating that helps to protect the solar cells while also minimizing the amount of reflection of the sun’s rays away from the panels, helping them to function more efficiently.

Solar panels sit on a plastic or polymer frame. This frame is mounted to the rooftop if placed on a residential property. They can also be ground mounted, which means the solar panels, or solar array is positioned in an open area. These tend to be larger solar panels.

Solar Panels and Silicon

Solar panels work because of the silicon within them. It is the second most prominent component on the panel – coming from natural beach salt and other reserves. Silicon is beneficial for the use of solar panels because it can be used as a semiconductor.

Silicon starts as a raw material, but it has to be processed using high heat to transform it. High purity silicon is necessary for some types of solar panels, such as monocrystalline solar panels. This type of silicon comes from quartz sand that is put into an arc furnace and exposed to very high temperatures.

Most of the time, manufacturers collect silicon in the form of solid rock. Then, the rocks are melted down. The ingots, as they are called, are melted into a desired cylindrical shape. All of the atoms are aligned in this process perfectly, both in orientation and structure. At that point, boron is added to the process. This material works to give the silicone positive electrical polarity, and that is key to allowing it to absorb the sun’s energy and aiding in converting that energy into power.

The silicon ingots are then cooled and sliced into thin wafers. This is done using a wire saw to ensure very precise cutting. These wafers will be very shiny at this point. That is why an anti-reflective coating is then placed on the wafer.

Every one of these silicon wafers is treated and then has metal conductors added to the surface. This helps to create a grid-like matrix on the surface of the wafers.

The wafers are placed into a chamber where phosphorus is then placed on the surface in a thin layer. This helps to charge the surface with a negative electrical orientation.

In addition to the creation of silicon cells, there are other components that make up a solar panel. The solar module, which includes all linked solar panels, will also need other components to turn solar into usable electricity, such as the use of an inverter and solar batteries.

Is Solar Panel Manufacturing Difficult?

The creation of silicon solar cells takes time and a lot of energy to create. The higher the quality of silicon, such as amorphous silicon, the more refined the process needs to be to create the best level of renewable energy possible. Solar technology is improving, which means the entire manufacturing process solar companies use is improving. What we do know, though, is that producing electricity using PV cells like this is one of the best ways to create clean energy – and that makes it worth the investment.

What You Should Know About Solar Panel Materials

To create solar power, numerous types of solar panel materials are needed, but the solar cell production process does not require a significant amount of fossil fuels. To produce thin film solar panels or monocrystalline panels, solar panel manufacturing has improved methods to ensure that every component is proper to preserve those valuable natural components.

Final Thoughts

From a silicon ingot to a way to power the entire electric grid, solar energy is very powerful. It provides a power output that can eliminate your electricity bills, and still works the same way you have always used solar. 

SmartSolar.org can help you determine if solar power is best for your home. Contact us now to learn more about how you can use the sun to generate power.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman holding a book
      Woman holding a book