Optics-Based Approach to Thermal Management of Photovoltaics: Selective-Spectral and Radiative Cooling

Xingshu Sun, Timothy J. Silverman, Zhiguang Zhou, Mohammad Ryyan Khan, Peter Bermel, Muhammad Ashraful Alam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus Citations


For commercial one-sun solar modules, up to 80% of the incoming sunlight may be dissipated as heat, potentially raising the temperature 20-30 °C higher than the ambient. In the long term, extreme self-heating erodes efficiency and shortens lifetime, thereby dramatically reducing the total energy output. Therefore, it is critically important to develop effective and practical (and preferably passive) cooling methods to reduce operating temperature of photovoltaic (PV) modules. In this paper, we explore two fundamental (but often overlooked) origins of PV self-heating, namely, sub-bandgap absorption and imperfect thermal radiation. The analysis suggests that we redesign the optical properties of the solar module to eliminate parasitic absorption (selective-spectral cooling) and enhance thermal emission (radiative cooling). Comprehensive opto-electro-thermal simulation shows that the proposed techniques would cool one-sun terrestrial solar modules up to 10 °C. This self-cooling would substantially extend the lifetime for solar modules, with corresponding increase in energy yields and reduced levelized cost of electricity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7828043
Pages (from-to)566-574
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011-2012 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5J00-66564


  • Radiative cooling
  • reliability
  • selective-spectral cooling
  • self-heating
  • sub-bandgap absorption


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