So, my job is to break solar panels. NARRATOR: Not only are NREL scientists constantly finding new ways to make solar cells, they’re finding creative ways to break them, too… to test their reliability.
And while their latest contraption looks like it belongs at a heavy metal concert, it’s actually designed to reveal how tiny invisible cracks can add up to long-term damage. TIM SILVERMAN: It’s easy to cause invisible damage, and it’s a lot harder to figure out what the long-term effects are.
And this new test is about figuring out those long-term effects. NARRATOR: Informed by computer simulations of wind in real power plants, Tim and his team use speakers to drive pressure cycles.
They can run a million realistic pressure cycles a day to speed up the testing process— cutting patience out of the equation. TIM SILVERMAN: What we’re doing is wearing out cracks that are already there.
That helps us get closer to understanding how things are really going to play out outside. NARRATOR: This kind of accelerated testing helps the scientists who make the solar panels understand what stresses they need to design their materials around, which helps the industry put higher-quality, more reliable solar panels on the market.
TIM SILVERMAN: Better tests mean better predictions and better products. When it comes to solar panels, we break them better so that manufacturers can make them better.