In the last decade and longer, photovoltaic module manufacturers have experienced a rapidly growing market along with a dramatic decrease in module prices. Such cost pressures have resulted in a drive to develop and implement new module designs, which either increase performance and/or lifetime of the modules or decrease the cost to produce them. Many of these innovations include the use of new and novel materials in place of more conventional materials or designs. As a result, modules are being produced and sold without a long-term understanding about the performance and reliability of these new materials. This presents a technology risk for the industry.
This report provides a global survey from IEA PVPS member countries of efforts being made to design new materials for photovoltaic cell and module applications. The report is organized by module component and includes reviews of material innovations being made in: (1) frontsheets, (2) encapsulants, (3) backsheets, (4) cell metallization, and (5) cell interconnects. Section 1 is an introduction. Section 2 presents the state of the art in PV module materials including the functional requirements of each component and the common materials typically used to meet these requirements. Section 3 discusses the motivations for applying new material solutions to PV modules. Section 4 presents the global survey of novel material solutions being developed and tested for the next generation of PV modules.