Multiscale Characterization of Photovoltaic Modules--Case Studies of Contact and Interconnect Degradation

Nafis Iqbal, Dylan Colvin, Alan Curran, Fang Li, Jeya Ganesan, Dana Sulas-Kern, Steven Harvey, Andrew Norman, Joseph Karas, Govindasamy TamizhMani, Jean-Nicolas Jaubert, Parag Banerjee, Bryan Huey, Roger French, Kristopher Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus Citations


The current popularity of photovoltaic (PV) systems is due in large part to their exceptional reliability and significantly lower cost than other energy sources. Studying cell and module degradation is key to promote further development in the state of the art. Fielded oraccelerated aged modules exhibit different failure modes, of which metallization degradation (contacts and interconnections) is prevalent. In this work, we discuss how multiscale characterization methods can be applied to a variety of module technologies that have been field exposed and have undergone accelerated age testing. These methods include performing characterization on the module level, cell level, and finally the materials level. The observed performance losses from the module- and cell-level characterization can be correlated with materials properties to find out the root cause of degradation. We recommend an initial nondestructive characterization suite, including module- and cell-level current-voltage (I-V), Suns-VOC, photoluminescence and electroluminescence imaging, quantum efficiency, ultraviolet fluorescence imaging, and thermal infrared imaging. Samples are then extracted from particularly degraded regions of the module and prepared for materials characterization techniques, such as top-down and cross-sectional scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, secondary ion mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy, and transmission electron microscopy, allowing a deeper look into the mechanism behind the metallization degradation. This article serves as an instructional review to introduce the different multiscale characterization methods and how they can be effectively applied to perform PV degradation studies. We also share some of our examples and discuss the strengths, limitations, and best practices for each of the characterization techniques.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011-2012 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-81269


  • Contact degradation
  • Interconnects
  • Metal contacts
  • Multiscale characterization
  • Reliability


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