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M12 solar cells are racing on to the market

Last year it was still believed that the next solar cell size standard in the industry would be M6. The much larger M12 was on the horizon, but it was not believed to arrive at mass production the market so soon. Just one year later the cell is available and some module producers have announced the mass production of modules made out of M12 cells by Q3 2020. This article will look at the possible layouts of these modules and the impact that it will have on module producers and the production equipment suppliers, with a focus on the module backend production equipment.

What should the next generation of module production equipment look like?

This is a big question for solar module producers and the solar manufacturing supply chain as well. One thing is clear: the manufacturing equipment will need to change to accommodate the newest module layouts.

In this article we will look at the changes in cell/ module sizes and the effect they will have on the module backend production. In the best case, it will be just upgrading existing equipment wherever possible, but for the latest large cell sizes, it will mean exchanging the older equipment.

The size of a solar cell was long a standard with an edge length of 156mm x 156mm (M0). It took nearly 10 years before the first cell size changes emerged, which by today go up to a size of M12 with an edge length of 210mm x 210mm, see figure 1. Each change in cell size increased the light trapping area, it started with minor changes in the range of a fraction of a millimeter, but has recently reached a gain of up to 81.2% when comparing the area of M0 to M12.

The M6 cell size was long thought to be the new standard size to come, while going through a series of different sizes. The cell edge length of M6 is 166mm x 166mm and increases the light trapping area by ~13.2% compared to a M0 cell. The larger size directly increases the overall power per module. With the industries main goal, to increase the power per module, it seems the logical step to further expand the size of the silicon wafer.

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