Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.3 Thin-film silicon PV

Solar cells can also be made from very thin films of silicon, in a form known as amorphous silicon (a-Si), in which the silicon atoms are much less ordered than in the crystalline forms described above.

Amorphous silicon cells are much cheaper to produce than those made from crystalline silicon, and are also better absorbers of light, so thinner, and therefore cheaper, films can be used.

There are also advantages in the manufacturing process:

  • it operates at a much lower temperature than that for crystalline silicon, so less energy is required
  • it is suited to continuous production
  • it allows quite large areas of cells to be deposited onto a wide variety of both rigid and flexible substrates, including steel, glass, and plastics.

However a-Si cells are currently much less efficient than their single-crystal or polycrystalline silicon counterparts. Commercially available a-Si modules achieve module efficiencies of around 10%, and are already widely used as power sources for a variety of consumer products, such as calculators, where the requirement is for low cost rather than high efficiency.

Now you’ll look at other thin-film PV technologies.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371