Alan Curran defends PhD thesis

Alan Curran

On June 22, Alan Curran succesfully defend his PhD thesis, "Reliability of Commercially Relevant Photovoltaic Cell and Packaging Combinations in Accelerated and Outdoor Environments."

Curran’s thesis is the result of a Department of Energy funded research project of solar module reliability. His research emphasized data science applications of both indoor and outdoor exposures of photovoltaic modules.

Curran, who is originally from Dublin, Ohio and earned his Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering from The Ohio State University, was originally interested in chemistry, but was drawn to materials science and engineering because it was a good overlap of chemistry and the physical aspects of engineering. His primary interests in materials science and engineering include renewable energy, energy storage and electronic materials.

During his time at CWRU, Curran is most proud of creating and publishing a PVplr R package for analyzing PV system data. He appreciated his advisors, Kyocera Professor Roger French and Research Associate Professor Laura Bruckman, introducing him to the data science branch of engineering. His long term goals as an engineer include integrating data science into existing engineering applications to improve and expand them.

Curran will graduate from CWRU in August with his PhD and is currently looking for a postgrad job.

Curran’s abstract:

Photovoltaics are at the forefront of new additions of renewable energy, driven by rapid integration of new technologies, most significantly a transition from traditional Al-BSF to higher efficiency PERC silicon cells. As they are a more modern technology, PERC cells do not have the historical backlog of data available for Al-BSF cells so degradation studies are necessary to assess the long term stability of PERC cells in comparison to Al-BSF.  To this extent, reliability tests with an emphasis on module technologies with commercial relevance have been designed as part of a DOE-SETO funded project in conjunction with industry partners.  The study is divided into indoor exposures of minimodules with packaging and cell variations, and outdoor exposures of both full-sized modules and minimodules. Indoor accelerated results show module degradation is dependent more on the encapsulant of the module, rather than the cell.  Additionally it was observed that white EVA encapsulants, designed for use with bifacial cells, experienced a high susceptibility for inducing metallization corrosion in modified damp heat environments.  Outdoor exposures of full-sized modules showed greater initial losses in some PERC cells due to light induced degradation, but better or equivalent performance to Al-BSF cells once saturated. Minimodule results showed a high degree of power loss and variance due to series resistance influences, however recombination losses were stable even in PERC cells with high power loss, suggesting LID was not observed. Overall, PERC cell variations are shown to outperform or are not distinguishable from Al-BSF cell variations, between accelerated and outdoor exposures.