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PhD thesis: Simple encapsulation approach for silicon thin film solar modules

Advertising institute: IEK-5 - Photovoltaics
Reference number: D089/2014, Physics, electrical engineering

The IEK5 – Photovoltaik is mainly concerned with the development of cost-efficient photovoltaic technologies. Our task is the in-depth evaluation of applied materials as well as process technology and the development of innovative concepts for solar cells and modules. Silicon thin film technology provides the potential to deliver cost-efficient and environmentally sound solar electricity in the Terawatt range. To date, it is the only technology that has demonstrated coatings on very large areas of 5.7 m². However, it exhibits comparably low efficiencies in the 12-15% range. Thus, area related costs for encapsulation and installation play a major role for the electricity price in this technology and need to be decreased to make it economically competitive.

Current encapsulation methods to protect the active layers against environmental impact - especially water vapor – and enable over 20 years of out-door operation have been adopted from other technologies that are known to be very sensitive to degradation. In contrast, silicon thin film modules have proven stable in accelerated ageing tests even without special means of protection. This opens up a potential for cost reduction in the encapsulation of the modules. However, for electricity generation the solar modules have to provide mechanical stiffness, must be stable against chemical corrosion, and electrically isolated.

Furthermore, solar energy can be used for photovoltaic water splitting. Therefore, the photovoltaic modules are used as photo electrodes in an aqueous electrolyte bath to decompose water into molecular hydrogen and oxygen. Multi-junction thin film silicon technology offers the unique ability to provide operation voltages in a wide range. The high voltage is required to drive such electrochemical reactions. For this application, the modules have to withstand direct contact to water, though water penetration is a critical factor in standard encapsulation. This stability is necessary for the electrodes itself and for insulating layers, which locally protect some areas of the modules.

Thus, the objective of this project is the development of new and simple encapsulation methods for silicon thin film solar modules including respective materials and processes. The requirements for the various encapsulation features differs and should be optimized concerning functionality and cost. We aim at reliable processes for highly stable solar modules at a cost reduction for the encapsulation by 20%. In parallel the electrical protection is to be developed for water splitting application, where the modules are in direct contact to aqueous electrolytes. Thus, the materials and processes have to be developed and tested in various accelerated ageing tests.

The study is embedded in the research environment of the Forschungszentrum Jülich campus and in the European project CHEETAH, so collaboration with national and international partners will be mandatory.

The project should start in September and the duration will be 3 years.


  • M. Sc. (or equivalent) in physics, electrical engineering or a comparable field with a good final grade (in the German system 2.0 or better)
  • Experience in experimental work is advantageous
  • The ability to communicate research results in scientific publications and presentations at international conferences
  • A good command of the English language is required

We Offer

  • Working in a diverse international and motivated research team
  • Excellent technical support and access to supercomputing facilities
  • A well-organized PhD work including participation in the interdisciplinary HITEC graduate school on energy and climate research

Forschungszentrum Jülich aims to employ more women in this area and therefore particularly welcomes applications from women. We also welcome applications from disabled persons.

For further information please contact:
Dr. Jürgen Hüpkes
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
IEK5 – Photovoltaik
52425 Jülich
Tel.: 02461/61-2594

Please send your Application documents to
Frau Andrea Mülheims