crystalline silicon

Crystalline silicon (c-Si) is an umbrella term for the crystalline forms of silicon encompassing multicrystalline silicon (multi-Si) and monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si), the two dominant semiconducting materials used in photovoltaic technology for the production of solar cells, that are assembled into a solar panel and part of a photovoltaic system to generate solar power from sunlight. In electronics, the term crystalline silicon typically refers to monocrystalline form silicon, as the sole material used for producing microchips, containing much lower impurity levels than those required for solar cells. Production of semiconductor grade silicon involves a chemical purification to produce hyperpure polysilicon followed by a recrystallization process to grow monocrystalline silicon. The cylindrical boules are then cut into wafers for further processing. Solar cells made of crystalline silicon are often called conventional, traditional, or first generation solar cells, as they were developed in the 1950s and remained the most common type up to the present time. Because they are produced from about 160 µm thick solar wafers—slices from bulks of solar grade silicon—they are sometimes called wafer-based solar cells. Solar cells made from c-Si are single-junction cells and are generally more efficient than their rival technologies, which are the second-generation thin-film solar cells, the most important being CdTe, CIGS, and amorphous silicon (a-Si). Amorphous silicon is an allotropic variant of silicon, and amorphous means “without shape” to describe its non-crystalline form.

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