Michigan State is one of a few schools that encapsulate their solar array by hand. Manually encapsulating, although more work than buying panels, gives us not only more flexibility in our design and ability to fix issues with the array but gives team members a greater understanding of how solar technology works and the challenges with creating a good product.
You can see in a past blog post the encapsulation process we used for our last array which used a continuous baking process to protect the cells between layers of EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate). This year we are looking to bake our cells statically in a standard oven with more layers, a back sheet and a top glass layer, for greater stability and protection.
Before we go and try baking sheets of cells in an oven we are doing single cell test runs in a small toaster oven to see what will work to get the best finished product.
One of the biggest difficulties is baking the cell under the right pressure and temperature conditions to have no air bubbles trapped in the EVA after it has cured. You can see in the final result of the first test run below that air bubbles were a problem.
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