Definition

cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaics

Part of the Electronics glossary:

Cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaics is a technology that uses the compound cadmium telluride (CdTe) as the semiconductor material in photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into DC (direct current) electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are an integral part of solar-electric energy systems, which are becoming increasingly important as alternative sources of utility power.

Cadmium telluride offers some advantages over crystalline silicon (Si), the substance originally used in the manufacture of PV cells. A functional layer of CdTe can be made extremely thin, on the order of a few micrometers (units of 10-6 meter), far thinner than a typical Si layer. Cadmium telluride offers better efficiency than Si at high temperatures and low levels of illumination. In addition, CdTe PV cells require less energy to produce than Si PV cells do. Cadmium (Cd) and tellurium (Te) are both products of zinc, copper, and gold mining.

On the downside, some environmental groups have expressed concern over the existence of Cd in CdTe PV cells. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal (similar to lead and mercury in this respect). However, the proponents of CdTe technology point out that the compound does not dissolve in water, so the elemental Cd should not pose any hazard to aquifers. Furthermore, CdTe will not vaporize in a fire. Some concern exists over the worldwide Te supply, much of which exists in China. However, the sea floor contains abundant Te, so if a means can be found to mine it, shortages will not pose a problem in the long term.

Cadmium telluride technology offers promise for the future of alternative energy, if only because conventional energy sources continue to suffer increasing scrutiny, regulation, and price volatility. At present, PV-derived electricity remains considerably more expensive than electricity produced by coal-fired, natural-gas-fired, or nuclear power plants. Over time, this situation may change as PV technology becomes less costly and conventional energy sources grow ever-more expensive and precarious.

 

Continue reading about CdTe photovoltaics:

Abound Solar has published a CdTe factsheet.

Photovoltaic system manufacturers are eager to produce CdTe modules in the United States.

Engineers developed a CdTe module with 14.4 percent area efficiency.

This was last updated in February 2012
Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • geo-fencing (geofencing)

    - Geo-fencing is a feature in a software program that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries. A geofence is a virtual barr... (WhatIs.com)

  • bandwidth

    - Definition: Learn what bandwidth is and how the term is used as a synonym for signal frequency range, data transfer rate and capacity. (SearchEnterpriseWAN.com)

  • quad-core processor

    - A quad-core processor is a chip with four independent units called cores that read and execute central processing unit (CPU) instructions such as add, move data, and branch. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Electronics

    - Terms related to electronics, including definitions about electrical components and words and phrases about computers, laptops parts, digital cameras, televisions and home appliances.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question About cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaicsPowered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.