Journal Club Research Forum
Brian C. McGuigan and Harley T. Johnson, UIUC
The photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion industry continues to make progress toward grid parity; within 3-5 years solar energy may be competitive with fossil fuel energy sources on a cost per watt basis. New forms of lightweight, flexible, off-grid solar energy conversion are also in development. Many of the barriers to further PV development are associated with materials and mechanics issues. For example, in silicon PV technology, which currently makes up more than 80% of the commercial PV market, over 60% of the cost of a PV module is due to the silicon in the PV wafers. This journal club issue presents an overview of PV energy conversion challenges from a mechanics and materials perspective, highlighting a few key issues that may be of interest to iMechanica readers. The key classes of PV energy conversion technologies are briefly described, including silicon PV; other thin film PV technologies; and then multi-junction designs and other third generation technologies such as organic PV. Several cross-cutting issues that apply to multiple PV technologies are also noted. Some of the references below may be useful in understanding PV topics on a broad level, while several citations are somewhat focused and may be more relevant to specific mechanics issues.