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Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols.

110-116 (2012) pp 2453-2457


Online available since 2011/Oct/24 at www.scientific.net
(2012) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland
doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.110-116.2453

Electrical Simulation and Characterization of Shunts in Solar Cells


R. Guptaa, P. Somasundaranb, D. K. Nandic
1

Department of Energy Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai,
Mumbai 400076, India
a

rajeshgupta@iitb.ac.in, somasundaran_kerala@iitb.ac.in, dknandi@iitb.ac.in

Keywords: Solar cells, Shunts, Lock-in thermography, PSpice, Simulation

Abstract. This paper aims, to investigate the shunts in multi-crystalline (m-c) Si solar cells by lock-in
infrared thermography (LIT) technique and to study their effect on the cell performance by PSpice
simulations. LIT provided useful information about the location and nature of shunts which was used
in the simulation. Based on the shunt location and shunt resistance of the cell obtained experimentally
from the I-V characteristic of the cell, shunt resistance at the shunted region have been estimated by
simulation using the distributed diode model approach of solar cell by fitting. Based on these values
of shunts, simulation has been performed to obtain the information about the deterioration in cells
performance caused by the shunts. This type of simulation is useful to study different types and
severity of shunts at different locations of cells. Solar cells which have been used in this study show a
power reduction in the range of 3% to 15% due the shunts. This reduction was more severe for the
shunt which was on the bus-bar compared to the edges.
Introduction
Silicon solar cells often suffer from shunts, which are internal short circuits causing degradation in
cell performance and overall efficiency. Some of these shunts are process-induced and some are
material related [1]. Process induced shuts are formed during the production due to problems
associated with fabrication machines. These types of shunts can be minimized by better process
control, monitoring tool, and handling. Some typical process related shunts formation happens due to
cracks in wafer, scratches, improper metallization contact, Aluminium particles, etc. Whereas,
material related shunts are strongly recombinative crystal defects, macroscopic Si3N4 inclusions, SiC
particles and SiC filament-type precipitates [1,2]. These can be minimized by using better quality of
material which will increase cost of cell.
Basically moderate level shunts causes reduction in fill-factor of solar cell and ultimately reduction
in output power. It is important to understand and estimate the power reduction by these shunts and
categorize them based on severity. In this work, an approach has been presented to estimate the losses
made by these shunts.
Methodology for Modeling and Simulation
Simulations have been performed using the distributed diode model of solar cell by PSpice to
investigate the effects of shunts on the cells performance [3]. To perform the simulation, in order to
evaluate the effect of shunts, the cell is divided into a large number of elementary areas. Each
elementary area was modeled by solar cell equivalent circuit consisting of a diode, a shunt resistance
and a current source in parallel as shown in Fig.1. Resistances have also been connected laterally
between each neighboring elementary areas corresponding to sheet resistance of the sample. The
forward dark I-V characteristic of a diode can be written in the following form:
(1)

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where I, I0, q, V, n, k and T are diode forward current, reverse saturation current, electronic charge,
forward voltage, diode ideality factor, Boltzmanns constant and temperature respectively. I0 and n
were calculated from the above equation using the experimental data. Diodes were modeled with
these calculated values of I0 and n.

Fig.1 Distributed diode model approach of solar cells, (an illustrative example with 3x3 sections)
For the simulation, cell was divided into 10,000 (100x100) elementary areas. Fig. 2(a) shows
schematically how this elementary breaking was done to the cell for simulating it. The dimension of
the solar cell was 4cm x 4cm. So every elementary area had a dimension of 0.4mm x 0.4mm. In this
work, smaller cells have been used however the approach can be easily extended to large solar cells.
Finger

100

Bus-bar

100

4 cm

3
2
1
1 23

100

(a)

100

4 cm

(b)

Fig. 2 (a) Division of cell into 100x100 equal area for simulation (b) Schematic of the cell
Fig. 2(b) shows a schematic representation of the cell with bus-bar and fingers. Every cell had one
bus-bar and 15 fingers perpendicular to it. Bus-bar thickness was 2 mm and each finger thickness was
around 0.4 mm. Based on this model, dark I-V and illuminated I-V have been obtained by varying the
voltage across the bus bar and back side of solar cell. In case of illuminated I-V, current source was
used in parallel with each elementary diode to model incident radiation.
Experimental Set Up
Lock-in infrared thermography is a relatively recent technique for investigation of shunts in solar cells
[4]. In this technique, cell is periodically excited electrically or by radiation to localize the generated
heat near to the shunted region. Infrared camera, which is synchronized with power supply takes
sequence of images and apply lock-in algorithm over the images in order to detect, even very small
temperature change over the shunted region. In this work, we are using electrical excitation which has
an advantage to classify the ohmic and non-ohmic shunts. In this case, only dark current flows through
the cell. At shunt location, an increased current causes heating of the solar cell, which can be detected
by lock-in thermography technique [4]. To determine whether the shunt is ohmic or non-ohmic, LIT

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images have been taken under forward and reverse bias. If the LIT signals at shunts position have
same strength in both images, the shunts are ohmic. If the signal differs significantly, those shunts are
non-ohmic.
The schematic diagram of lock-in thermography setup is shown in Fig. 3 which was used to
perform lock-in thermograpy on multi-crystalline Si solar cells. Programmable DC power supply was
used for the excitation of solar cell. Controller synchronies the power supply excitation with the
frames of camera to implement lock-in algorithm over the captured images.
Cell
Holder

Solar Cell

DC Programmable Power Supply

IR Camera

PC Frame Grabber

Controller

PC

Fig. 3 Block diagram of the lock-in infrared


thermography system for shunt investigation

Fig. 4 Lock-in thermograms of C1 sample


under (a) forward and (b) reverse bias

Experimental Results
Solar cell samples were investigated both in forward and reverse bias in order to understand the
characteristics of shunts. In this study, three m-c Si cells (C1, C2, C3) have been used, which had
different shunt resistances. LIT has been performed on these samples. Many different types of shunts
were observed on samples. Fig.4 shows lock-in thermography images of C1 sample. It shows shunts
at the corners, which may be due to edge isolation process (to isolate the n-layer from the back side of
cell) [5]. Sometime edge isolation process creates such type of shunts at the corners. Generally laser
has been used for the process. Sometimes laser generates enough heat to melt the surroundings n-layer
and it get in direct contact of with the base of the cell creating a shunt at that point. Fig. 5 shows that
sample (C2) had a shunted region exactly on the fingers which is ohmic in nature. It may be due to
metallization related process problem. In sample C1 and C2, lock-in signal in forward and reverse
bias is same, which shows that these shunts are ohmic in nature, therefore it can be modeled by a
simple resistance. However in case of sample C3 (Fig. 6), some shunts are only visible in forward
bias, which shows non-ohmic nature of shunts.

Fig. 5 Thermography images of C2 sample


under (a) forward and (b) reverse bias

Fig. 6 Thermography images of C3 sample


under (a) forward and (b) reverse bias

Simulation Results and Discussion


Results obtained from LIT gives information about the location of the shunts and its nature. This
information has been used in simulations to understand the impact of shunts on cell performance.
At very low voltages under forward biased condition, current does not flow through the diodes and
it is predominantly controlled by shunt resistance (RSH) of the cell. RSH value of sound region of cell
was obtained experimentally and used in the simulation for the each elementary area. Latter this value

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was corrected at shunt location. The relative shunt strength has been obtained by relative value of LIT
signal. By lowering the resistance at the shunt positions in same proportion as of LIT signal, initial
slope of simulated dark I-V curve was fitted with the initial slope of experimental dark I-V curve at
around zero voltage. Only RSH value at the shunt positions have been changed to match with the total
cell RSH. After obtaining the shunt resistance value at different location of cells, total dark I-V curve
of the cell have been obtained by fitting the average sheet resistance values, which was also measured
experimentally. This resistance was kept same everywhere in the network. In Fig. 7(a), 8(a), and 9(a),
graphs were plotted for sample C1, C2, and C3 respectively. In case of C3 sample, one non linear
shunt has been modeled by a diode in series with RSH of shunt, which has been connected in parallel to
elementary diode at shunt location. For obtaining the illuminated I-V curves, current source parallel to
each diode have been connected in the network to model uniform incident radiation close to short
circuit current under standard condition. Two simulated illuminated curves are plotted in Fig. 7(b),
8(b) and 9(b), in presence and absence of the shunt, for each cell after obtaining all parameters
required for plotting.

Current (A/cm2)

Current (A/cm2)

Voltage (V)

(a)

(b)

Voltage (V)

Fig.7 I-V curves of sample C1: (a) Dark I-V (b) Simulated Illuminated I-V

(a)

Current (A/cm2)

Current (A/cm2)

Voltage (V)

(b)

Voltage (V)

Fig.8 I-V curves of sample C2: (a) Dark I-V (b) Simulated Illuminated I-V
From the illuminated I-V curves, the power reduction from each of the cell has been calculated to
understand the impact of shunts in different cases. For case of sample C1, the maximum power
reduction was around 2.5 %. The maximum power reduction was calculated in C2 sample which was
around 15 % due to shunting on finger. In case of sample C3, the power reduction was around 5.2%. It
was observed that if the shunt is located inside finger pattern rather than on the edges (sample C2

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case), it has more significant effect on the cells performance. It can be understand physically, shunts
which are in the proximity of fingers causes more sinking of current, therefore more reduction in
power. Shunts which will be far from fingers (sample C1 case) will have less effect on cell
performance (if they have similar shunt resistance). Simulated result trend can be understood
physically by the same argument. In this work, smaller cells have been used, however in case of large
solar cells the effect of shunts could be much greater due to higher probability of finding shunting in
bigger area.

(a)

Current (A/cm2)

Current (A/cm2)

Voltage (V)

(b)

Voltage (V)

Fig.9 I-V curves for sample C3: (a) Dark I-V (b) Simulated Illuminated I-V
Summary
Based on the simulation approach, different types and severity of shunts located at different locations
of solar cells have been simulated and obtained their effects on cell performance. This type of
approach is useful to understand cell performance with varying parameters of shunts and can be used
to classify shunts in different categories based on the level of tolerance and priority to solve the
severity of shunting problems during production. Obtained results from the samples shows power
reduction by 2.5% to 15%, which can be more or less depending on the shunting level and area of
solar cells.
Acknowledgment
This work is funded by Department of Science and Technology of India under a joint Indo-UK project
on Stability and Performance of Photovoltaics.
References
[1] O. Breitenstein, J. P. Rakotoniaina, M. H. Al Rifai and M. Werner: Progress in Photovoltaics:
Research and Applications Vol. 12, (2004) p. 529
[2] A. Lotnyk, J. Bauer, O. Breitenstein, H. Blumtritt: Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells Vol. 92
(2008) p. 1236
[3] O. Breitenstein, R. Gupta and J. Schneider: Journal of Applied Physics, Vol. 102 (2) (2007).
[4] O. Breitenstein, M. Langenkamp: Lock-in thermography: basics and use for functional
diagnostics of electronic components (Springer Verlag, Berlin, 2003).
[5] O. Breitenstein, M. Langenkamp, O. Lang, and A. Schirrmacher: International Photovoltaic
Science and Engineering Conference Proc. (PVSEC-11), Sapporo, Japan (1999).

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, ICMAE2011


10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.110-116

Electrical Simulation and Characterization of Shunts in Solar Cells


10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.110-116.2453