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The most important technologies today are photovoltaics and solar thermal energy, which involve converting sunlight into electricity and heat, respectively.
Given the efficiencies possible today, an estimated 2,000 square kilometers of photovoltaic modules would be needed to cover Germany's power requirements; roof surfaces alone provide 2,800 square kilometers, one quarter of which would be immediately technically usable. In theory, it would be possible to meet global power requirements completely by solar energy utilization over an area covering 400 by 400 kilometers in the Sahara desert. The challenge lies in the technical and cost-effective exploitation of this immense potential.
Thin-film solar cells are developing into a rapidly growing market segment. If their commercial potential is to be fully exploited, the solar modules must be produced in a roll-to-roll manufacturing process. Evonik has now developed the "missing link" necessary for continuous production: a highly transparent, yet weathering-resistant barrier film that can replace glass plates as a front cover.
With more than 60 years of experience in silicon chemistry, Evonik supplies high-purity chlorosilanes and monosilane for production of solar silicon and photoactive layers. In addition, Evonik is working on processes to reduce the cost of producing solar silicon and thus make generating power from solar energy cheaper.
The EVA film with crosslinking boosters that Evonik produces seals the actual solar cells and their cabling reliably and in a stable manner during a lamination process when the solar cells are being produced. The crosslinking boosters are also produced on the basis of cyanuric chloride from Evonik.
In the field of concentrated photovoltaics, Evonik is working towards improving the efficiency of high-performance solar cells. With microstructured primary lenses made from special PMMA molding compounds that focus the sunlight on to a secondary lens made from silica glass, Evonik is developing a system to concentrate the sun's rays and increase the energy yield.