Journal article

Thermomechanical behavior of multifunctional GFRP sandwich structures with encapsulated photovoltaic cells

The feasibility of encapsulating solar cells into the glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) skins of load-bearing and thermally insulating sandwich elements with foam cores has been evaluated. Exposure of the encapsulated cells to artificial sunlight led to a significant temperature increase on the top sandwich surface, which almost reached the glass transition temperature of the resin. Mechanical loading up to serviceability limit loads did not cause any damage to the solar cells. Stresses of less than 20% of the material strength arose in the face sheets due to thermal and mechanical loading up to failure. Composite action through the face sheets with encapsulated cells was maintained and no debonding between face sheets and foam core was observed. Thanks to the superior mechanical and thermal sandwich behavior, thin-film silicon cells are more appropriate than polycrystalline silicon cells for use in multifunctional GFRP sandwich structures, although they are less efficient. © 2010 ASCE.


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