Activation Energy for End-of-Life Solder Bond Degradation: Thermal Cycling of Field-Aged PV Modules

Hamsini Gopalakrishna, Archana Sinha, Joe Carpenter, Sridhar Niverty, Nikhilesh Chawla, Dirk Jordan, Govindasamy Tamizhmani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus Citations


The longevity of solar photovoltaic modules depends on the durability and reliability of their components, one of which is the solder bonds in interconnect ribbons. The solder joints experience stresses from thermal cycling and constant elevated temperatures (40 °C-70 °C) in regular field operation leading to thermo-mechanical fatigue and intermetallic compound formation. To study the end-of-life wear-out mechanisms and to obtain activation energy of solder bond degradation, two field-aged modules from Arizona - a 21-year-old Solarex MSX60 module (with Sn62Pb36Ag2 at the solder joints) and an 18-year-old Siemens M55 module (with Sn60Pb40 at the solder joints) - underwent 800 and 400 modified thermal cycles, respectively. Using three heating blankets, each module had three temperature zones maintained at 85, 95, and 105 °C during the 15-min hot dwell time of the thermal cycle. Cell-level series resistance data obtained from three temperature zones enabled the calculation of activation energy for solder bond degradation for the MSX60 and the M55 modules to be 0.12 eV and 0.35 eV, respectively. From each temperature zone in both modules, busbar-solder samples were obtained, imaged through SEM, and analyzed with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. In the MSX60 module with traces of Ag in the solder material, phase segregation and growth were primarily observed at high temperatures. For M55 modules without Ag in the solder material, major phase segregation was observed in all temperature zones. The IMC thickness for both modules increased with increasing module temperature. The beneficial effect of Ag in solder material on mitigating solder bond degradation is presented.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number9212549
Pages (from-to)1762-1771
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011-2012 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-79404


  • Activation energy
  • field-aged module
  • intermetallic compound
  • scanning electron microscope
  • series resistance
  • solder bond degradation
  • thermal cycling


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