Use of Indentation to Study the Degradation of Photovoltaic Backsheets

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The ability of electrical insulating materials within a module to act as insulators is a key safety requirement for photovoltaic (PV) technology. Presently, however, the durability of backsheets may not be readily assessed. For example, the mechanical tensile test continues to be developed, and its use has not been validated such that a technically based pass/fail criteria may be established. This study examines the use of simple indentation methods, including durometer hardness and instrumented indentation, as a means to quantitively assess the degradation of PV backsheets. Characteristics including: hardness, modulus, load/displacement profile, creep hold response, and residual impression are explored in an empirical study. Glass/encapsulant/backsheet mini-modules constructed using backsheets including: polyamide (specifically the AAA backsheet product), poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) laminate (“TPE”), and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) were examined. An M-type durometer as well as Berkovich and cube-corner tips were used in the indentation experiments. Additional characterizations were performed to interpret the indentation measurements including: surface roughness measurements using atomic force microscopy (AFM), a chemical structure study using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and phase-transition measurements using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The results are analyzed in the context of the combined accelerated stress test (C-AST) also explored in this study. Instrumented indentation (i.e., using a Berkovich tip) was able to distinguish between backsheets and quantify the effects of accelerated testing (including up to 60%, 25%, and 20% change in hardness, modulus, and creep displacement, respectively). The embrittlement of the backsheets was not readily assessable using cube-corner indentation. Cracking of the known-bad polyamide backsheet was observed from the C-AST, which was not observed to result from steady state UV weathering.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 110082
Number of pages12
JournalSolar Energy Materials and Solar Cells
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-73040


  • Backsheet
  • Durability
  • Instrumented indentation
  • Nanoindentation
  • Reliability


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