Silicone rubber is vital for use in the renewable energy industry
Silicone polymers are inorganic compounds with inherently unique properties, especially thermal and chemical stability within a wide temperature range. They are UV resistance, and have environmental compatibility.
In the manufacture of solar applications, silicones are used both in the construction and the production process.
In both instances, the most important property of silicone is its durability, which has been proven to clearly outperform the durability of organic polymers.
In the case of wind-generated energy, silicone’s outstanding weathering properties offer superb protection for turbines, which are exposed to extreme environmental conditions.
A high-quality solar panel (photovoltaic module) has to be warranted for 20 to 25 years, so durability is a key factor.
As with other renewable energy applications solar module manufacturers have to ensure that power output remains as stable as possible.
A basic technical requirement is protection of solar cells and electrical connections, in order to withstand harsh environmental conditions over the life cycle.
Silicone rubber is used in two main areas of solar panel production:
1. As a RTV sealant to provide long-term sealing, bonding, and protection against moisture, chemically aggressive environment, UV, thermal cycling and mechanical stresses.
2. During the manufacturing process as a vacuum, forming membrane to ensure the panels are securely bonded under heat and pressure.
During the construction of a solar panel, a back sheet is layered with an EVA encapsulant. The photovoltaic cells are assembled and connected and co-laminated with the front glass sheet, which also includes an EVA layer.
The lamination process is carried out at temperature of 140-160°C under vacuum for up to 15-30 minutes, at which point the melted EVA forms the secure and protective bond.
Silicone Engineering has developed kSil™VAC to produce the lamination vacuum forming membranes used in the manufacture of solar panels.
This specially formulated material provides excellent elongation and high tear properties, which increases the production lifecycles of the lamination process far longer than those experienced by organic polymers.
Silicone Engineering can supply kSil™VAC sheeting up to 1800mm wide with rolls lengths supplied to customer requirements.
In addition to the membrane sheets, there is a wide range of bespoke silicone solutions to service the requirements of the renewable energies sector.
These include precision made extruded silicone profiles and section, seals and gaskets and insulated cables.
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