How Tiny O-Rings Play a Large Role in the Solar Industry

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When driving around your city, you may notice that some homes have solar panels on their roofs. Homeowners who would like to have a renewable source of energy can rent or purchase the solar panels and use the power of the sun to help heat and cool their homes.

As you gaze upon those large panels, you might understandably think that they are made primarily from large pieces of material. While this is correct for certain parts of the solar panels, there are also tiny pieces in the units that help to keep the solar cells running correctly.

To learn more about the various components that make up solar cells, check out the following.

How Solar Cells Are Made

As Renewable Energy Hub notes, the first step in making a solar cell is to purify silicon. Once this is finished, single crystal silicon is made and then transformed into something called a silicon boule, from which the solar cells are made. Next silicon wafers are made from each boule, with the help of a diamond saw. After adding a small amount of boron to the wafers, electrical contacts are then used to connect the solar cells to each other; these contacts must be very thin so that they do not end up blocking sunlight. Next, because silicon is inherently shiny, a coating is applied to the silicon wafers to reduce the amount of sunlight that is lost. The solar cells are now encapsulated and sealed into silicon rubber or ethylene-vinyl acetate.

The Role of Seals & O-Rings

There are also a number of small molded rubber products, including seals and o-rings made from different materials, that are used in the solar industry. You can find these tiny yet vital pieces in the rooftop mounting hardware, vacuum seals, flat gaskets and other parts of the solar equipment. O-rings and seals must help to keep dust and dirt out from the electronics so that they continue to work properly. In order for these small seals to do their part and keep the solar panels working correctly, manufacturers must make sure they choose o-rings that can stand up to the often harsh conditions and heat that solar panels endure. For instance, as Energy Sage notes, solar panels can get as hot as 149 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that any o-rings and other seals that are used in the solar industry must be able to withstand this high temperature and not break down.

O-Ring Material Is Key

In addition to being subjected to high temperatures, o-rings found in and around solar panels must also be able to withstand sitting in the baking sun day after day, as well as possibly be exposed to snow and cold winter temperatures. All of this means that the o-rings must be made from certain types of materials. For instance, viton fluorocarbon o-rings can handle temperatures ranging from -13 degrees Fahrenheit up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit, making them a tough and durable choice for the solar industry. 

In Solar Panels, No Part Is Too Small

Solar panels don’t get a break from the weather, and they must continually harness energy from the sun to power a home. As a result, each and every component — from the silicon wafers to the viton fluorocarbon o-ring — must be carefully manufactured and/or selected to ensure the panels will continue to work 365 days a year without fail.