Research Papers

Thermal Stress Analysis/Life Prediction of Concentrating Photovoltaic Module

[+] Author and Article Information
M. Cao1

 General Motors NA R & D, VME Node: 58611-67277, 324 REB, 30500 Mound Road, Warren, MI 48071

S. Butler, Y. Jiang, R. Radhakrishnan, S. Bendapudi

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC)

J. T. Benoit

United Technologies (UTC) Power

Y. Chen

UTC Carrier

Steve Horne

SolFocus, Inc.


Corresponding author.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 130(2), 021011 (Mar 20, 2008) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2840572 History: Received April 17, 2007; Revised July 11, 2007; Published March 20, 2008

Aiming at understanding the structural integrity of two representative concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) module configurations, finite element thermal stress analysis is carried out in this investigation. This study covers the nominal and extreme operating conditions, including system startup and shutdown. While the first CPV module is bonded by epoxy-type material, the bonding material for the second CPV module is lead-free solder. The analysis of the first module confirms that this CPV module can endure the thermal stress under steady-state operation. However, residual stress analysis shows that the epoxy holding together the PV cell/aluminum nitride and aluminum nitride/heat sink pairs will likely break, first at some sporadic spots, and then in a good part of the bond causing the failure of the CPV module, as the cell temperature drops from 100°Cto0°C. Nonlinear viscoplastic analysis using the temperature profile of CPV cell fatigue test ongoing at United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is performed to evaluate the structure strength and subsequently predict the life of the second CPV module. The result reveals that the maximum characteristic stresses of the PV cell components and heat sink are below the strength allowable for the corresponding materials under both the steady-state and overnight idle conditions. Critical locations on the solder that are potentially susceptible to structural failure after a few thousand thermal cycles due to the excessive shear stress are identified. A rough estimation of the module life is provided and compared with the fatigue test. This investigation provides firsthand understanding of the structural integrity of CPV modules and is thus beneficial for the solar energy community.

Copyright © 2008 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 3

((a) and (b)). Steady-state temperature distribution

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Figure 4

Young’s modulus of the bonding material as a function of temperature

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Figure 5

The first principle stress of the bonding between PV cell and aluminum nitride at 40°C

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Figure 6

FEA model layout of Configuration 2

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Figure 7

((a) and (b)) Thermal cycle time history for analysis/testing

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Figure 8

Critical point locations on solder

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Figure 9

((a)–(c)) Plastic stress/strain/energy at Point 1 of solder

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Figure 10

((a)–(c)) Plastic stress/strain/energy at Point 2 of solder

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Figure 11

((a)–(d)) Plastic stress/strain/energy at Point 3 of solder

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Figure 12

((a)–(d)) Plastic stress/strain/energy at Point 4 of solder

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Figure 1

((a) and (b)). CPV module configurations

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Figure 2

Loading/boundary conditions for steady-state thermal stress analysis




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