Business as usual is not the usual for Elon Musk. He and his minions are always looking for new and innovative ways to disrupt the status quo. A solar panel consists of lots of solar cells that all have to be interconnected, usually by soldering or placing them in a convection oven. But business as usual is not usual in any business Musk is connected with.
Prior to being acquired by Tesla, SolarCity filed a 28 page patent application that covers a new way of manufacturing solar panels using a heat-activated adhesive that also conducts electricity. The conductive thermo-setting adhesive may be unique — and apparently it is — but the process will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched hamburgers being cooked at Burger King.
The solar cells are arranged in a cascading arrangement, then placed on a moving belt that takes them for a trip beneath the specially designed heaters. When they pop out the other end of the line, they are permanently bonded together. SolarCity claims in its patent application, which is entitled “Systems, Method, and Apparatus for Curing Conductive Paste,” that the process is more efficient than conventional manufacturing methods.
The bonding may lead to longer-lasting solar panels. It also avoids the potential distortions that result from direct heating methods such as soldering or using a convection oven. Once the adhesive is cured by the heat, it permits electrical conductivity between the individual solar cells within the completed panel.
While Tesla is focused on its SolarRoof products for residential applications, it still expects to manufacture millions of solar panels at Gigafactory 2 located near Buffalo, New York. Plummeting costs for solar panels are driving a transition away from fossil power plants and nuclear power plants in favor of solar power plants that operate on nothing more than sunlight. If this new process allows Tesla to make better solar panels for less money, that alone will help move the transition timeline forward.
Source and photo credits: CB Insights