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Lawrence Livermore National Lab to explore spectral imaging to detect moisture in solar cells

September 16, 2015

LIVERMORE, CA -- A Lawrence Livermore National Lab engineer has been awarded $570,000 through the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to explore spectroscopic technology as a means of detecting moisture buildup in solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Over the next two years, Mihail Bora, a Materials Engineering Division (MED) research team member at the Lab, will try to prove that spectral imaging can be used to evaluate the moisture content of PV modules and to create two-dimensional maps and models of water concentration. Bora will then use these results as a screening tool to help protect the modules from water damage. Water ingress can cause corrosion of metal parts, delamination and decrease the efficiency of solar cells.

"Our goal is to measure water content without destroying the photovoltaic modules and to remove uncertainty on how reliable the modules are over their long expected lifetimes," Bora said. "Reliability plays a tremendously important role in making solar competitive with other non-renewable energy sources because it allows project managers to more efficiently use its funds and may lead to a decrease in financing costs."

Bora's project builds off the team's previous testing with laminates and aims to answer questions critical to industry adoption, such as detection range, limits, accuracy and stability. The typical approach to addressing the problem, Bora said, is focused on water transport measurements in polymer membranes or controlled laboratory setups.

This project, Bora said, combines optics and reliability, two areas of core importance to Lawrence Livermore's mission.

Partners in the research included two solar manufacturers, MiaSolé HiTech Corp. and Prism Solar Technologies Inc.
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The Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort that drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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