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Mono-crystalline, or single crystal solar panels, are manufactured primarily through the Czochralski process. The silicon crystal ingots created for the photovoltaic solar panels through this process are cut into wafers using a wire saw. On these silicon crystal ingots, conductive wires are screened onto the surface. Distinguishable by the solid blue/black colour of the cells.


  • The most efficient photovoltaic panel available
  • Best performance in moderate climates


  • Higher cost than polycrystalline due to manufacturing process of the cells.

Monocrystalline photovoltaic panel


Poly-crystalline, are solar panels with multiple crystals cut from ingots ofmolten silicon. The shapes that are cut are grown and connected with conductive wires. The process of creating the silicon wafers for these panels is less demanding than that of Mono-crystalline which leads to a lower manufacturing cost. Distinguishable by its light blue marble pattern across its cells.


  • Lower cost due to less intense manufacturing process.
  • Perform better in hotter climates


  • Lower efficiency than monocrystalline

Polycrystalline PV panel

Thin Film - Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)

The Amorphous panel uses a thin film of silicon layered in each module as opposed to the thicker wafer type in the previous two panels above. This enables the amorphous panels to be much more flexible in their design as can be seen in the picture below. Commonly used for pocket calculators and other small electronic devices.


  • Flexible design potential


  • Generally low efficiency of around7% - 9% therefore at least double the panel space would be needed to compete with Mono-crystalline panels for example.
  • High installation cost (twice the number of panels to be installed to compete with monocrystalline)

Thin film amorphous silicon

Thin Film - CIS and CIGS

CIS is the acronym for Copper, Indium and Selenium which is another type of thin film panel.CIGS is the acronym for Copper, Indium, Gallium and Selenide which uses a similar manufacturing process to CIS.

During the manufacturing process for these panels the solar cells are interconnected during the fabrication of the thin layers, this sets them apart from the previous three panels as there is no handling of individual cells.As with the Amorphous thin film panel to compete with the mono or poly crystalline panels on power output twice the number of panels would be needed which negates the lower panel cost.


  • CIS and CIGS panels have good performance in low light due to high spectral response.
  • Low manufacturing cost


  • Again while not as efficient as monocrystalline panels with an average efficiency of 10%
  • High installation cost (twice the number of panels to be installed to compete with monocrystalline)

PV Dye (DSCs)

Dye solar cells (DSCs) areable to generate electricity by converting energy from light absorbed by the dye into electrical energy.

A DSC consists of anelectrolyte gel containing dye molecules sandwiched between a transparent electrode on the top and a catalytic electrode on the bottomthe entire cell is encased in a glass substrate. Light passes through the glass substrate and transparent electrode to hit the dye in the electrolyte gel, exciting it and enabling it to emit electrons. These electrons join with Iodide ions within the electrolyte gel and pass through the transparent electrode and out of the DSC, this is the electrical energy generated by the cell.The circuit is completed by the electrons returning to the DSC through the catalytic electrode where the Iodide ions become TriIodideagain for the process to start over.


  • A low-cost alternative to photovoltaic silicon and thin ?lm cells on the basis of materials and process costs
  • Lower manufacturing cost due to low cost of the majority of base materials and simple screen/roll printing of the dye.
  • Semi flexible and often semi-transparent.


  • Much less efficient than other thin film PV or traditional PV.
  • Still a need for high cost materials such as Platinum and Ruthenium

Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV)

BIPV is the term used when conventional materials used in the construction of a building are replaced with Photovoltaic materials which then provide either a primary or secondary source of electrical power. The advantage of this method over non-integrated systems is the initial cost is offset by the savings made from purchasing less conventional building materials that the BIPV system replaces. An example of a BIPV installation in the UK is the Co-Operative Insurance Tower (CIS Tower) in Manchester pictured below.

Building integrated photovoltaic BIPV

PV Tiles

Solar tiles are manufactured to the same size as traditional roof tiles, this means they can replace or become part of a traditional roof covering and as such are used in BIPV new builds and retro fits.Solar tiles come in two main types either, the whole tile is a miniature PV panel or solar cells are imbedded into the ceramic tile.


  • Aesthetically pleasing


  • High initial cost
  • Low efficiency

Photovoltaic tiles

Colloidal Quantum Dot (CQD) Solar Cell - Future Technology

Quantum dots are semiconductors only a few nanometres in size and can be used to harvest electricity from the entire solar spectrum.

A quantum dot is a portion of matter whose excitons are confined in all three spatial dimensions. Consequently, such materials have electronic properties intermediate between those of bulk semiconductors and those of discretemolecules.

It is believed that quantum dots may be able to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of today's typical silicon photovoltaic cells. Lab testing has shown thatquantum dots of lead selenide can produce as much as seven excitons from one high energy photon of sunlight. Comparingthis tocurrent photovoltaic cells which can only manage one exciton per high-energy photon.

This however would not result in a 7-fold increase in final output however, but could be used to boost the maximum theoretical efficiency from 31% to 42%. Quantum dot photovoltaicsin the future would theoretically be cheaper to manufacture, as they can be made using simple chemical reactions.

Colloidal quantum dot solar cells

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