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Evaluation of moisture ingress from the perimeter of photovoltaic modules



Many thin film photovoltaic (PV) technologies can be sensitive to corrosion induced by the presence of water vapor in the packaging materials. Typically impermeable front and backsheets are used in conjunction with an edge-seal around the perimeter to prevent water vapor ingress. These edge-seal materials are often made of a polyisobutylene resin filled with desiccant, which dramatically increases the time for moisture to reach sensitive module components. While edge-seals can prevent moisture ingress, even the lowest diffusivity transparent encapsulant materials are insufficient for the lifetime of a module. To evaluate the performance of edge-seal and encapsulant materials in a manner that simulates their function in a PV module, an optical method was devised where ingress is detected by reaction of a Ca film with water. Using this method, we have exposed test samples to heat and humidity allowing quantitative comparison of different edge-seal and encapsulant materials. Next, we use measurements of polymer diffusivity and solubility to evaluate the ability to model this moisture ingress. Here, we find good agreement between these two methods highlighting the much greater ability of polyisobutylene materials to keep moisture out as compared with typical encapsulant materials used in the PV industry. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.