Standard for Better Solar Cells: Volker Naumann Receives DIN Inovation Award

Press Release /

For the development of a test method for a frequently occurring defect in silicon solar cells, Dr. Volker Naumann from the Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP received the DIN Innovation Award. The 32-year-old physicist was handed over the prize endowed with 3,000 euros at the Hannover Messe yesterday. His work helps to improve the lifetime and the efficiency of solar modules. The test method that he developed provides the basis for a DIN standard.

Preisverleihung Volker Naumann Fraunhofer CSP DIN
Volker Naumann (left) is awarded the innovation prize of DIN board member Rüdiger Marquardt.
Testing device PIDcon
© Fraunhofer CSP
The PIDcon test device allows to detect the potential-induced degradation (PID) already at the solar cell level.

When photovoltaic modules are exposed to high system voltages with crystalline silicon solar cells and are operated in a humid environment, power losses can occur. This disturbance is called potential-induced degradation (PID), it can lead to the complete failure of affected modules.

Volker Naumann and his team succeeded in elucidating the physical basis of the PID and transforming this process into a model. Investigations on the microstructure plane show that crystal defects in the silicon generate shunts and are responsible for PID. These crystal defects are called stack defects and have lengths of only a few micrometers and a thickness of only one atomic layer. Short circuits are caused by the penetration of sodium atoms into the silicon of the photovoltaic cell.

Based on these findings, Fraunhofer CSP, together with Freiberg Instruments, developed a test device that measures the susceptibility of solar cells to this effect. The device »PIDcon« provides an innovative process for the error analysis of silicon solar cells. With the DIN SPEC 91348, a test standard for the PID tests on silicon solar cells has now been defined for the first time. The German Institute for Standardization e.V. therefore awarded the development as a convincing example of innovative norm and standardization projects. The award was presented by Rüdiger Marquardt, member of the board of DIN.

»I am very happy about this award. The award is evidence of the importance of an accurate knowledge of the microstructure for the reliability of materials. And it also recognizes that with our process we offer an important help for photovoltaic manufacturers and suppliers,« Naumann says.

With »PIDcon«, solar cells or encapsulation materials can be tested for susceptibility to PID in a simple procedure. The production of complete solar modules and their testing in large climatic chambers are being omitted. Instead, the device already allows the PID test for individual, non-encapsulated solar cells. This means significantly lower material, energy and labor costs as well as a process that is easier to handle with less expensive equipment, delivering the test result within a few hours - a decisive advantage for quality control and the production of PID-insensitive solar cells and modules.

Since 2014 »PIDcon« has been offered commercially, the test method is met with great demand. With a DIN standard, the DIN SPEC 91348, the original drawback of the cell test - there was still no standardized test procedure - was eliminated because the PID test procedure is now for the first time also possible on the basis of a test standard for unencapsulated solar cells.