APPLICATION OF ETHYLENE VINYL ACETATE AND POLYVINYL BUTYRAL IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF PHOTOVOLTAIC MODULES Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA

) is a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate, approaching elastomeric materials in softness and flexibility. It is used in the photovoltaics industry as an encapsulation material for silicon cells in the manufacture of photovoltaic modules. Ethylene vinyl acetate is hard-wearing, transparent, resistant to corrosion, and flame retardant [3]. The EVA resin, together with a number of ingredients, is heated and mixed thoroughly and is then extruded through a flat die and a film is then formed. The advantages of EVA film are:
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High tensile strength Excellent transparency Outstanding adhesion [6] UV protection [6] Sound barrier Good temperature withstanding Water proof High wind resistance Humidity durable Long-term reliable

Problems arise from the vacuum lamination process involved in sandwiching the EVA between two sheets of glass. Photovoltaic devices are typically encapsulated using EVA to provide them with mechanical support, electrical isolation, and protection against environmental exposure. For many module types, exposure to water is an important lifetime-limiting factor. During exposure to water, heat, and/or UV radiation, EVA decomposes and releases small amounts of acetic acid, which result in lowering of pH and general increase in surface corrosion rates and the colour of the EVA film turns from clear to yellow-brown [1]. Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) is a resin usually used for applications that require strong binding, optical clarity, adhesion to many surfaces, toughness and flexibility. The major application is laminated safety glass for automobile windshields [3]. PVB has gained acceptance among manufacturers of photovoltaic thin film solar modules. The photovoltaic circuit is formed on a sheet of glass using thin film deposition and patterning techniques. PVB and a second sheet of glass (called back glass) are then placed directly on the circuit. The advantages ot PVB are:
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PVB can be stored for up to 4 years until use; EVA only 6 months. Greater resistance to impression and lack of flow at the edges – hence no contamination of the modules during lamination Reproducible lamination thanks to the lack of crosslinking of PVB (there is no need for PVB to crosslink) The use of other, more cost-effective lamination processes Better long-term behaviour in terms of UV and temperature resistance

Polyvinyl butyral is delicate to handle. It requires a clean room with humidity and temperature controlled for the assembly of PVB film in between two pieces of glass. If the assembly is done under improper environmental condition, the result of the PVB laminated glass is not satisfactory. In addition, the production line is long and occupies large space. The conventional laminating process using a layer of PVB as the bonding resin, comprises the step of heating the laminate inside an autoclave to a softening temperature for the PVB resin, allowing the resin to flow, thereby forming a transparent film having no significant optical defects. Page 1 of 4

Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) was first utilized for solar photovoltaic modules in the 1970s [4]. Early modules incorporated PVB formulations that absorbed water at exposed edges, resulting in a cloudiness characterized by a loss in visible light transmission. As a result, solar module manufacturers shifted for the most part from PVB to ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) for use in many solar cell applications [5]. In 1997 a ‘third generation’ PVB interlayer that mitigated the cloudiness issue was introduced to the glazing market. With the introduction of the third generation formulation, PVB is now ready for fullscale use in the solar industry, particularly for thin-film (TF) glass/glass applications. There is a controversial information about the application of both materials (EVA and PVB). Everything depends somehow or other on the ambition of the manufacturer to offer the best possible product to the customer, hence the impossibility to say for sure which is the optimal temperature regime for production of photovoltaic modules laminated with EVA or PVB. One research report [2] proposes the following thermal treatment profile (long cycle) for EVA in a laminator (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Thermal treatment profile (long cycle) in the laminator. In the industry, the short or fast cycle is used for higher throughput. Its average duration is about 22 to 25 minutes if the time of load and unload of the module is not taken into account. The short cycle finishes with the lamination step (6 minutes). After setting the laminator in unload conditions, the laminate is withdrawn from and placed in the curing oven for the required reticulation process [2]. Research had been done on PVB in PV modules, but it was stopped because of the water sensitivity of PVB. According to the research team, PVB does not have to be processed in an autoclave but with a one step lamination process. In the standard autoclave process there should be produced pressures of 12 bar and temperatures of 140°C for approximately 7 hours. The disadvantage of the autoclave free process is that it is approximately 150min long, in comparison to a standard lamination process of EVA, which takes only 25min [6]. PVB lamination process parameters as they are prescribed by the manufacturer are shown in Figure 2. Page 2 of 4

Figure 2: Parameters of the lamination process for PVB. A new process with a big potential of shortening and duration of only 54 min had been successfully developed and. The process is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: New developed process for the autoclave free polyvinyl butyral. The advantage of this new process is that it is possible to take the laminate hot out of the laminator without formation of any bubbles. Time to cool down the laminator is not needed. The process is a two step process. In the first step, where the laminator temperature is 90°C, PVB does not melt yet, but gets a little bit soft. At this time the air has to be removed completely out of the laminate. In the second step where the PVB melts the solar cells get enclosed by the material. The pressure in the laminator enhances this effect. Important feature of this process is that a very good vacuum (0.01 bar) inside the laminator should be maintained [6]. Page 3 of 4

REFERENCES: [1] M.D. Kempe, G.J. Jorgensen, K.M. Terwilliger, T.J. McMahon, C.E. Kennedy and T.T. Borek, Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate Potential Problems for Photovoltaic Packaging, IEEE 4th World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion (WCPEC-4) Waikoloa, Hawaii, May 7–12, 2006 [2] A. El Amrani, A.Mahrane, F. Y.Moussa, and Y. Boukennous, Solar Module Fabrication, International Journal of Photoenergy, Volume 2007, Article ID 27610, 5 pages, doi:10.1155/2007/27610 [3] Answers.com, an Internet Web-site [4] M.A Quintana et al., Diagnostic Analysis of Silicon Photovoltaic Modules after 20-Year Field Exposure, 28th IEEE PVSC, Anchorage, 2000, pp. 1420-1423. [5] K . Diefenbach, The Retur n of Laminated Glass Modules with PVB, Photon Magazine, 10 August 2007. [6] H. Schmidhuber and K. Krannich, “Why using EVA for module encapsulation if there is amuch better choice?” in Proceedings of the 17th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, vol. 1, pp. 662–663, Munich, Germany, October 2001.

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