Control of substrate strain transfer to thin film photovoltaics via interface design

Kuo Kang Hung, Ioannis Chasiotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brittle thin film photovoltaics (PV) that are integrated with load-bearing structures can be subjected to large strains that lead to fragmentation and performance degradation. Such adverse effects can be mitigated, or altogether eliminated, by mechanically isolating a thin PV module from the underlying load-bearing structure. We developed an effective and efficient strain attenuation strategy to eliminate strain transfer from a stiff unidirectional Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) laminate to an integrated thin amorphous Si PV module. An analytical model of the three-layer material system (CFRP laminate, interface layer and PV module) was employed to create strain attenuation maps that depend on the length of the PV module and capture the coupled effects of the shear modulus and the thickness of the interface layer (G2, t2), and the Young's modulus and the thickness of the PV module (E3, t3) through the terms G2/t2 and E3t3, respectively. Based on these strain attenuation maps, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) was identified as an effective and versatile interface material, which provided up to 100% strain attenuation between the CFRP laminate and the PV module. After accounting for confinement effects on the effective modulus of the PDMS interface layer, a very good agreement was achieved between the measured and the predicted strain attenuation. Importantly, the PDMS interfacial layer preserved the initial fill factor of the PV module until CFRP laminate failure at 1.7% strain, while in the absence of the PDMS interface the fill factor decreased when the CFRP laminate strain exceeded 0.80%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-655
Number of pages13
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • CFRP
  • Composite laminate
  • Fill factor
  • Fragmentation
  • PDMS
  • Strain attenuation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Materials Science


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