JinkoSolar panelsLGTrina Solar

N-type vs P-type solar cells: What are these?

More and more top-end solar manufacturers — LG, Panasonic, Sunpower — advertise N-type cell solar panels. What are they and what is so special about them? What kind of cells did their panels have before anyway? Here is a quick article about the differences between P-type vs N-type solar cells to clear the confusion. 

P-type cells were designed for space flights

Solar cells are made of silicon. To make them produce electricity under the sun, you have to treat them with chemicals. If you dope silicon with boron, you get a P-type solar cell. When you use phosphorus instead, you end with an N-type solar cell. You can read more about the way solar panels work in our article “See inside solar panels: There’s a world behind the glass”.

The first contemporary solar cell invented by Bell Labs in 1954 was N-type. But back in the 1950-60s, scientists looked at solar power as something that we would use in space. P-type solar cells have a higher radiation resistance that’s why all the research went into this type of cells. 

That’s why most panels on the market have P-type cells. However, manufacturers went back to studying N-type cells because of their higher efficiency. 

N-type cells lose less power over time

What are the actual differences between N-type vs P-type cells though?

The big problem with P-type solar panels is the boron-oxygen defect. When these panels are first exposed to sunlight, two elements react which lowers the efficiency of a solar cell. The Light-Induced Degradation (LID) in P-type solar panels reduces the performance by 2-3% in the first year on average. The degradation may reach up to 10% in some cases.

P-type solar cellsN-type solar cells
• High degradation in the first year of service
• Lower cost
• Widespread
• Higher efficiency
• Low light-induced degradation
• Higher cost

N-type solar panels take over the market

Source: ITPRV 2018

Solar panels with N-type solar cells become common and chances are you’ll see them more and more. You can’t tell the two cell types apart though just by the looks. Usually, the datasheet of a panel specifies what kind of cells it has.

You can already find N-type cell solar panels for sale from brands like Sunpower, Canadian Solar, and Panasonic. LG Solar ventured into the territory with their major hit Neon 2 but the company has already left the solar business. The most budget-friendly N-type cell solar panels are likely to come from Chinese brands, like Trina Solar and Jinko Solar. Stay on the lookout for N-type solar panels popping in at A1 SolarStore!

Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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