PLoS One. 2022 Nov 17;17(11):e0277768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277768. eCollection 2022.
Various cell crack modes (with or without electrically inactive cell areas) can be induced in crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells within a PV module through natural thermomechanical stressors such as strong winds, heavy snow, and large hailstones. Although degradation in the performance of PV modules by cell cracks has been reported occasionally, the mode-dependent evolutions in the electrical signatures of cracks have not yet been elucidated. In this study, we propose that the reduction of the time constant in the AC impedance spectra, which is caused by the elevation of minority-carrier recombination in the p-n junction of a PV cell, is a ubiquitous signature of cracked PV cells encapsulated in a commercially available PV module. Several other characteristics derived from the illuminated current-voltage (I-V) and dark I-V data significantly evolved only in PV cells with inactive cell areas. We also propose that the evaluation by carrier recombination is a crucial diagnostic technique for detecting all crack modes, including microcracks, in wafer-based PV modules.