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New Imaging System Reveals Defects Even in Bright Sunlight

 



New system for detecting defects in silicon solar panels has been developed and tested in full and partial sunlight under any weather conditions, according to the scientists who developed it. Given that current defect detection methods cannot be used in daylight conditions, the new system could make it significantly easier to keep solar panels operating at their optimal performance levels.

 

When it comes to solar panels, silicon solar panels, which account for approximately 90 percent of the world's solar panels, are prone to defects that occur during the manufacturing, handling, or installation processes. These defects have the potential to significantly reduce the efficiency of solar panels, so it is critical that they are identified and corrected as soon as possible.

 

Researchers from Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China describe how a novel combination of new hardware and software allows defects in solar panels to be clearly imaged and analyzed even in bright light in the journal Applied Optics published by the Optica Publishing Group.

 

As Yunsheng Qian, the research team's leader, explained, "current defect detection systems can only be used to find defects at night or on solar panel modules that have been removed and moved inside or into a shaded environment." Ultimately, we hope that this system will be used to assist inspectors at photovoltaic power plants in locating and identifying defects more quickly, allowing these systems to produce electricity at their maximum capacity.

 

Seeing things through the prism of light

 

In their latest work, the researchers developed an all-weather imaging system that is capable of operating in any lighting situation. The researchers created software that applies a modulated electric current to a solar panel, causing it to emit light that flashes on and off very quickly. This allows them to detect defects in the solar panel. It is necessary to acquire a sequence of images of the solar panels while an electric current is applied, and an InGaAs detector with a very high frame rate is used to accomplish this. In addition, the researchers used a filter to limit the wavelengths detected to those around 1150 nm, which helped to remove some of the stray sunlight from the images they captured.

 

It was Sheng Wu who was the first author of the paper who stated, "The extremely fast imaging speed allows more images to be collected so that a greater number of changes between images can be distinguished." In particular, a new algorithm was developed that distinguishes between modulated and unmodulated portions of an image sequence and then magnifies the difference between the two. Under high irradiance, this allows for a clear image of the defects in the solar panel to be obtained."

 

The researchers put the system through its paces on both monocrystalline silicon and polycrystalline silicon solar panels in order to test it. As a result of the research, it was discovered that the system can detect defects on silicon-based solar panels with irradiances ranging from zero to one hundred thirty Watts per square meter, which corresponds to light conditions ranging from complete darkness to full sunlight.

 

The researchers are currently developing software to assist in the reduction of digital noise in order to further improve image quality, allowing the detector to collect image changes with greater accuracy. The researchers are also interested in seeing if artificial intelligence can be applied to the captured images in order to automatically identify the types of defects and streamline the inspection process even more.

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