The performance and durability of single-layer sol-gel anti-reflection coatings applied to solar module cover glass

A significant source of energy loss in photovoltaic (PV) modules is caused by reflection from the front cover glass surface. Reflection from the cover glass causes a loss of ~4% at the air-glass interface. Only a single air-glass interface can be coated on crystalline silicon solar modules as an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) layer is inserted between the cover glass and the silicon absorber. A single-layer anti-reflection coating (ARC) on the outer surface of the cover glass is effective at reducing reflection losses over the wavelength range of most PV devices. The coating investigated in this work reduces the reflectance loss at the glass surface by 74%. However, the long-term durability of sol-gel coatings has not been established particularly for use in hot and humid climates. In this work, we investigate the damage resistance of a single-layer closed-surface hard coat ARC, deposited using sol-gel methods by applying a variety of accelerated weathering, scratch and abrasion test methods. The reflectance of the sol-gel ARC was measured and then the coating was put through a series of durability and environmental tests. The coating is resistant to damage from heating and can withstand temperatures higher than the phase change temperature of soda-lime glass. Scratch testing demonstrated that the sol-gel AR is relatively hard and difficult to remove from the substrate surface. Pull tests and cross-hatch testing also confirmed the strong adhesion of the coating. Weathering experiments show some degradation in weighted average reflectance, particularly an increase in reflectance of 0.6–0.9% after 1000 h of exposure to damp heat. Testing also showed a vulnerability to exposure to acid. These results indicate that the performance of this type of ARC could deteriorate and possibly delaminate in humid climate conditions The ARC had a low water contact angle, which means the coatings are hydrophilic and, therefore, hygroscopic increasing the risk of water damage over extended periods of time. This work shows that sol-gel anti-reflection coatings are currently unsuitable for use on PV and are unlikely to remain durable across the 25 year industry standard.