Evaluation of Surface Crack Formation in Photovoltaic Backsheets Using Fragmentation and Finite Element Simulations

Stefan Mitterhofer, Michael Kempe, Xiaohong Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Backsheet cracking is among the most commonly observed degradation modes of photovoltaic modules in the field. Cracks can reduce the ability of backsheets to fulfill their functions, such as protection of the modules from the environment or electrical insulation. This work presents an evaluation of the degradation and cracking propensity of two backsheets during accelerated IEC TS 62788-7-2 (International Electrotechnical Commission) aging under the A3 condition with a fragmentation test using a coextruded polyamide backsheet (AAA), and a laminated multilayer backsheet with a polyethylene terephthalate core and outer layer and ethylene vinyl acetate inner layer (PPE). Results show the surface embrittlement of the AAA outer layer during exposure. A longer time of exposure causes cracks to form at lower strains during stretching and creates deeper cracks. Accordingly, Young's modulus of the outer layer increases, as measured by cross-sectional nanoindentation. PPE exhibits cracking after exposure as well. While no similar increase of modulus or crack depth can be observed, the outer layer of PPE exhibits more obvious signs of erosion during exposure, including progressive morphological changes and thickness losses. A finite element model is developed to simulate surface crack formation, based on initially zero-thickness decohesion elements. Decohesion criteria define a critical stress, at which these elements grow, and cracks can begin to form. These criteria are obtained via parameter optimization by comparison between simulation and experiment. The model is used to interpret crack formation in both backsheets.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)311-318
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-89006


  • backsheets
  • cracking
  • finite element method (FEM)
  • nanoindentation
  • photovoltaics (PVs)


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