Plastic solar panels seem like the perfect recycling solution.  This is the truth about the invention from Japan

In the pages Solar materials and solar cells We can read an article by scientists from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Fukushima, in which they describe the solar panels they have developed made of crystalline silicon and a layer of poly(ethylene terephthalate), popularly known as PET. From which plastic bottles are produced.

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The researchers’ idea was to try to create a slightly different photovoltaic cell based on silicon technology, but with a different front layer. Instead of the commonly used 3.2mm thick glass cover, they chose a lighter and more flexible material.

The basis of the cell was a square component consisting of polycrystalline silicon (c-Si) with dimensions of 156 × 156 mm and a thickness of 250 nm. PET film has been applied to the top and bottom of the unit. Its thickness was very small – only 0.025 mm. The cell also includes an EVA sealing layer. As the study authors add, the panel has a PET/EVA/c-Si/EVA/PET structure.

Solar panels with PET layer. It sounds like recycling, but the scientists had something else in mind

To see if this type of solar cell offered better performance, it was compared to a traditional glass-coated module. What was found? Initially, PET cells were more flexible and could be bent in different directions. Furthermore, it has been shown to be about a quarter lighter, which may make it attractive for installation on surfaces that cannot handle heavy loads.

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Is that all? It was found that the voltage and duty cycle values ​​are similar for both units. It was also noted that PET has an anti-reflective structure, thanks to which the cell can absorb more sunlight.

However, scholars have not mentioned the efficiency and power of the unit in their work. We can only guess that it looks like a regular cell. The authors of the paper primarily point out that flexible and lighter modules expand the range of possibilities in which they can be installed.

Read also: They combined solar panels with a coal mine. How is this supposed to work together?

We know nothing about whether the PET used to deposit the layer is virgin or recycled. Taking into account that such devices require the highest “purity” of materials, in practice it may turn out that plastic panels will not even be a partial cure for the mountains of waste we produce, but on the contrary – they will only contribute to environmental pollution.

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