In recent years, significant progress has been made in solar cell module laminator glass lamination technology. Coating technologies allow increasingly advanced materials to be applied to architectural glass, offering a range of thermal and even dynamic transparency capabilities.
For BIPV, the ability to laminate modules with thick glass is a particular challenge and a requirement for safety glazing required for certain architectural applications, with front and back glass up to 10mm thick to handle wind loads and other weather effects.
But perhaps it's the addition of colored or patterned coatings on or within the glass that contributes to the challenges of c-Si technology for thin films. If c-Si cells can be masked and BIPV modules with multiple colors can be produced, architects and construction companies will be more willing to incorporate solar energy into their building designs. With any colored or patterned modular coating, there is always an efficiency trade-off. With manufacturers using a-Si achieving 8% conversion efficiency and c-Si manufacturers seeing 18% module efficiency as the low end in 2021, there is a lot to play for solar module laminators.
With the global solar market likely to exceed 160 GW in 2021, and the need to decarbonize the built environment, there are growing opportunities for agile manufacturers. Midsummer CEO Sven Linstrom said of the technology "I don't know of any energy source that can generate electricity with such low CO2 emissions."
Even today, the most common method of laminating solar panels is with a laminator. There are many sealants that are likely to replace the old-fashioned way of lamination. Many companies have been working hard to develop new methods of encapsulating solar module laminators. Canadian manufacturer Qsolar has replaced the old-fashioned lamination process with a sprayer that evenly spreads adhesive on solar panels. The main advantage of spray technology is the gentle handling of solar cells. However, this is only the first step, and many innovations that promise to simplify panel lamination are still in progress.