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Solar Simulators


A solar simulator is a device which emits light closely resembling the solar irradiance received on Earth. Its light output is carefully calibrated against a reference spectrum to ensure maximum spectral match. One of their main uses is in conjunction with a current-voltage measurement system for characterizing solar cells. You can also use solar simulators to study photobiological systems, material exposure to sunlight, and many other applications. No matter what you are using a solar simulator for, it is extremely important that your solar simulator has a consistent output and radiates uniformly over a well-defined area.

We offer a low-cost, highly versatile solar simulator, that you can use either as a standalone system (with or without z-stage and breadboard) or with our I-V test systems to form a complete solar cell testing kit. When used with one of our substrate platforms, fabricating and testing solar cells is quick and easy.

Our solar simulator uses an LED solar simulator lamp, making it stable, reliable, and easy-to-use. Designed for small areas, the output is AAA rated over a 15mm diameter illuminance area and adheres to the latest solar simulator standards (IEC 60904-2020). By default, the solar simulator outputs 1 sun of illuminance (100 mW/cm2 or 1000 W/m2) over the wavelength range of 380 nm – 1000 nm but you can adjust the optical output power down to an illuminance of 10 mW/cm2 if needed. You can also individually control the output power of each of the 11 LED wavelengths.

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Solar Simulator Uses


Solar power is well utilized within nature, providing energy to all living things through photosynthesis. This solar power can also be utilized for man made purposes (such as in photovoltaics) and there are many materials that degrade under sunlight. There are many areas of research where it is vital to accurately characterize these light-dependent reactions.

Solar Cell Measurement

Solar simulators are most commonly used to characterize solar cells. The performance of solar cells will vary significantly depending on the intensity or spectral distribution of incident light. It is therefore very important to use a well-defined, calibrated light source for testing optoelectronic devices, especially during the research stage of development.

Natural sunlight varies significantly over days, weeks, and months, and it also varies geographically. Solar simulators allow you to compare measured device efficiencies, independent of where and when they are tested.

Additionally, solar cells in the early stages of development (such as perovskite solar cells or organic photovoltaics) may not be robust enough to withstand harsh outside conditions. New solar materials still need to be rigorously and reliably characterized before they are tested under "real life" conditions. Therefore, most situations require solar simulators to measure devices in controlled laboratory conditions.

Photodegradation

You can also use a solar simulator to measure material stability under solar irradiance. There are plenty of materials which degrade under solar irradiation, especially after long periods of exposure. Most of these reactions occur in the presence of oxygen or moisture. For example, most organic chemicals can degrade when exposed to oxygen, but these reactions are often accelerated in the presence of light.

Photodegradation occurs due to photochemical reactions. Often in these photochemical reactions, the absorbance of a photon excites an electron within a molecule into an excited state. This excited molecule will then oxidise or reacts with moisture, causing it to decompose into another (sometimes unwanted) product.

Photodegradation often happens with organic materials, such as organic dyes, food and for some polymers (such as polystyrene). However, it can also occur within some inorganic materials, such as TiO2. When photodegradation occurs within a fluorophore, it is referred to as photobleaching.

Photobiology

Solar simulators can also be used to study the behaviour of natural organisms and plants under illumination. The most obvious example of a light-dependent reaction occurring in nature is photosynthesis, but there are other biological processes which depend on sunlight. An example is photomorphogenesis. Additionally, continuous illumination can have harmful effects on biological materials, such as sun damage to human skin.

Solar simulators can be extremely helpful in understanding exactly what happens in these biological processes. One benefit of using artificial sunlight for these purposes is that you can test materials under various light intensities or wavelength ranges. This can help you to evaluate the exact energy levels and reactions which happen when these processes occur.

Related Measurement Equipment


Resources and Support


Solar Simulator Light Sources Solar Simulator Light Sources

Choosing the right light source for your solar simulator is one the most important decisions to make when setting up a PV testing laboratory.

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Why You Should Buy the Ossila Solar Simulator Why You Should Buy the Ossila Solar Simulator

A solar simulator is an essential piece of equipment for any lab working with photovoltaics, optoelectronics, or any research that requires a simulated sunlight environment.

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How to Set Up a Solar Simulator Light Source How to Set Up a Solar Simulator Light Source

The solar simulator light source is compact, lightweight and can be easily installed in any lab using adjustable height stand provided with it.

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How to Check Solar Simulator Calibration How to Check Solar Simulator Calibration

It is important to ensure that your solar simulator is outputting a consistent spectral output. Different solar simulators will have different bulb lifetimes.

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The Solar Spectrum

The sun radiates light with an average power density of 1000 W/m2 and the solar spectrum is approximated by the AM1.5 spectrum. While the solar spectrum is well defined on average, the exact solar irradiance at any point on the earth surface varies significantly by hour, day, week, or month. This variation is due to varying weather conditions, and your relative position to the equator (zenith angle) at time of measurement. Essentially, solar irradiance is not consistent across the earth's surface. These inconsistencies mean that if you use natural sunlight as a light source, you cannot easily compare or quantify light-dependent processes if they are measured at different points geographically or at different points in time. This variation makes it impossible achieve the controlled standards required for experimental research using natural sunlight.

Solar simulators provide consistent, calibrated light which accurately mimics sunlight, while keeping consistency between experiments. This will allow you to characterize light-dependent responses accurately and reliably.

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The AM1.5 Spectrum The AM1.5 Spectrum

Solar irradiance varies depending on where you are in the world. This is because of a combination of local atmospheric conditions and geometric considerations.

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Solar Simulator Irradiance and Spectral Mismatch Solar Simulator Irradiance and Spectral Mismatch

Solar simulators generally attempt to replicate the standard AM1.5G spectrum which has a total integrated irradiance of 1000.4 W/m2 over the wavelength range of 280 nm – 4000 nm.

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Solar Simulator Design

In order to design a solar simulator, you will need the following components:

  • A calibrated light source
  • Optical filters or lenses to improve light uniformity.
  • A fan or cooling system to stop the light source from overheating.
  • A fixed or adjustable stand and testing stage.
  • Specific control elements and power source
  • Software to control and monitor the solar simulator's experimental use

The most important part of the solar simulator will always be the light source but all these elements should be optimised for your system. The Ossila Solar Simulator is specifically engineered to handle all these considerations, providing a reliable spectral output, so you can simply plug it in without having to worry about any of the technical details.

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Set up for characterizing solar cells Solar Simulator Applications

The most common use of a solar simulator is to characterize photovoltaic devices.

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Wavelength bins for solar simulator classification and calibration Solar Simulator Classification and Calibration

For a light source to be classed as a solar simulator, it must be evaluated according to one of three standards, and comply with the specifications set out within.

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Automated Solar Simulator Assembly Automated Solar Simulator Assembly

This system was designed to be easy to use, and effortless to assemble. This video and subsequent guide will demonstrate how easy setting up your testing lab can be with the Ossila Automated Solar Cell Testing Kit.

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Solar Cell Testing & Characterization Solar Cell Testing & Characterization

One main application of solar simulators is to test solar cell devices and modules. To characterize how solar cells will perform in the real world, it is vital that you use a solar source that mimics the suns spectrum well. You could of course use actual sunlight, but this is an uncontrollable variable.

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Measuring J-V Curves with Ossila Solar Cell Testing Equipment Measuring J-V Curves with Ossila Solar Cell Testing Equipment

When it comes to testing the performance of solar cells, accurate measurements and reliable equipment are essential. If you are conducting research into PV materials, understanding how to measure and interpret J-V curves is crucial in assessing device performance

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Analyzing and Improving Low Device Metrics: FF, VOC and JSC Analyzing and Improving Low Device Metrics: FF, VOC and JSC

Anaylzing key device metrics such as fill factor (FF), open-circuit voltage (VOC), and power conversion efficiency (PCE), can help you find potential issues with your solar cell devices

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Solar Cell Efficiency Formula Solar Cell Efficiency Formula

In order to ensure that different solar cells are compared consistently within the field of solar cell research, we use a standard formula for determining their efficiency.

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Fill Factor of Solar Cells Fill Factor of Solar Cells

Fill factor (FF) is an important measurement that you can use to evaluate the efficiency of solar cells.

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Plotting I-V Curves using Python Plotting I-V Curves using Python

Use the following Python code to plot this data using Panda DataFrames. Just copy and paste the code below into your Python virtual environment and start plotting.

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Solar Simulators: Interpreting Spectral Irradiance Graphs Solar Simulators: Interpreting Spectral Irradiance Graphs

The aim of this article is to contextualise the spectral irradiance graphs you see throughout our website and elsewhere.

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Interpreting J-V Curves: Insights into Solar Cell Performance Interpreting J-V Curves: Insights into Solar Cell Performance

With so many variables in a PV device, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact issue affecting your solar cell's performance.

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Radiometry and Photometry Radiometry and Photometry

Light can be measured either photometrically (only light visible to the human eye is considered) or radiometrically (also considers the energy in the invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum).

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Excitons: An Introduction Excitons: An Introduction

When an electron is excited into a higher energy state, either through absorption of a photon or another excitation method, this creates a positively charged space in the lower energy leel known as a "hole."

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What are Flexible Solar Cells? What are Flexible Solar Cells?

New developments in solar cell technology have enabled the realisation of flexible solar cells, the applications of which can be utilized in more imaginative ways than ever before.

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