In a rapidly expanding photovoltaic market, Arkema’s Kynar® PVDF-based solutions are making a discreet but essential contribution to energy transition.
In 10 years, the cost of photovoltaic (PV) per watt-peak1 has fallen from €5 to €0.2. With regular 10% growth, solar power will be a key contributor to decarbonizing our future world. An important factor is the longevity of panels, as they are constantly exposed to heat, UV and humidity. The front is protected by glass, while for the back, fluoropolymers are a popular choice among manufacturers. Arkema is a major player in this highly competitive sector, thanks to its high-performance Kynar® PVDF. “The multilayered structure of our white films extends the lifecycle of backsheets to more than 25 or 30 years,” says Bernard Schlinquer, PVDF expert at Arkema.
Alongside this mature market, Arkema is investing in emerging sectors. “A major trend is the arrival of bifacial solar modules, which can produce 10% more electricity in ground-mounted arrays,” explains Bernard Schlinquer. “For the back, we are developing a transparent Kynar® grade with greater UV resistance; the first pilot tests were approved in 2019.” The Group’s R&D department is also working on dedicated coatings with flexible PV films, and is partnering with large research laboratories on “thin crystalline layer” technologies using perovskite, a crystalline mineral that could, in future, offer an alternative to silicon in photovoltaic cells.
1. The peak power of a photovoltaic panel refers to the maximum output it can deliver into the electricity network in clearly standardized conditions.
With several thousand wind turbines produced every year around the world, that makes more than 550,000 tons of composites used in the blades. These composites are manufactured using a thermoset resin that is very hard to recycle, so what happens to the wind turbines at the end of the product lifetime? In this rapid-growth market (15-20%), Arkema is a game-changer with its Elium® liquid resin for manufacturing large wind turbine blades. “It is a thermoplastic material,” explains Guillaume Clédat, Elium® Development Manager. “The composite parts made with it can be ground, then depolymerized, and their resin can be reused with exactly the same qualities.” Its properties of lightness, mechanical resistance and durability, coupled with short cure times at room temperature, are generating major gains in productivity. Manufacturers are getting on board, and the first recyclable wind farms will go into service in the mid-2020s. “We are forming partnerships with several major players in the sector, to check production processes and optimize the recycling procedure,” says Guillaume Clédat. The first blade design in Elium® resin was certified in 2019 by DNV GL (the standardization body for wind power), and the first depolymerization of actual-size blades is scheduled for 2020. This material certainly has the wind in its sails!