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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Graphene-Enhanced Thermal Interface Materials for Thermal Management of Solar Cells

  • Author(s): Saadah, Mohammed Ahmed
  • Advisor(s): Balandin, Alexander
  • et al.

The interest to photovoltaic solar cells as a source of energy for a variety of applications has been rapidly increasing in recent years. Solar cells panels that employ optical concentrators can convert more than 30% of absorbed light into electricity. Most of the remaining 70% of absorbed energy is turned into heat inside the solar cell. The increase in the photovoltaic cell temperature negatively affects its power conversion efficiency and lifetime. In this dissertation research I investigated a feasibility of using graphene fillers in thermal interface materials for improving thermal management of multi-junction concentrator solar cells. Graphene and few-layer graphene fillers, produced by a scalable environmentally-friendly liquid-phase exfoliation technique, were incorporated into conventional thermal interface materials. Characteristics of the composites have been examined with Raman spectroscopy, optical microscopy and thermal conductivity measurements. Graphene-enhanced thermal interface materials have been applied between a solar cell and heat sink to improve heat dissipation. The performance of the single and multi-junction solar cells has been tested using an industry-standard solar simulator under the light concentration of up to 2000 suns. It was found that the application of graphene-enhanced thermal interface materials allows one to reduce the solar cell temperature and increase the open-circuit voltage. We demonstrated that the use of graphene helps in recovering significant amount of the power loss due to solar cell overheating. The obtained results are important for the development of new technologies for thermal management of concentrated and multi-junction photovoltaic solar cells.

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