A thin film solar panel is a special type of panel made up of super thin, flexible solar cells. See also: solar shingles.
The thin film solar panel is a new type of solar technology made by coating a metal or glass surface with light absorbing amorphous silicon alloy layers. The semiconductor may be deposited in a single layer or more than one layer, and the thickness of these layers varies considerably–from some nanometres to the tens of micrometres. As a result of this kind of configuration, thin film solar panels are flexible and light. These are called thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) or thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV).
Thin film solar panels are usually categorized by the type of semiconductor material used for coating. The three most-commonly used substances are amorphous silicon, copper indium gallium selenide, and cadmium telluride. A traditional silicon cell is modified to an amorphous silicon thin film solar panel in most cases. The power output, efficiency and performance ratings depend on the type of photovoltaic film used.
A thin film solar panel works in a manner similar to traditional panels. The panel absorbs light and converts it to usable electricity. However, due to the use of semiconductor film deposits, thin film solar panels are much more flexible, light and durable making them better than traditional panels in many respects. In these panels, the atomic arrangement is generally inconsistent compared to crystalline silicon panels. Thin film panels can gather a greater amount of the solar energy due to a greater surface area. They are have been found in the lab to collect up to 90% of the sun’s energy, although commercially available thin-film panels are closer to traditional solar panels.
Initially, thin film solar panels were manufactured for specific uses such as in portable solar calculators. Today, thin film solar panels are available commercially even for residential home owners. Due to their unparalleled flexibility, thin film solar panels can be used almost anywhere, unlike regular panels. Integrated panels for households and green buildings have recently flooded the market, and most leading solar companies have delved into manufacturing thin film solar panels.
Real-world use has shown that some thin film solar panels perform better in low light conditions making them very useful. Recent breakthroughs have developed technology to make the incident light fall repeatedly on the silicon film for better absorption and utilization of sunlight.