A plastic material that can replace the metal in solar panel frames has been developed for the first time in South Korea, and has entered into production ready for full-scale market penetration.
LG Chem announced that the Company has developed ‘LUPOY EU5201’, a PC/ASA flame retardant material that maintains the material shape even during temperature changes due to its low thermal expansion levels, using their proprietary technology and manufacturing method.
Solar panel frames are located at the edge of solar panels to protect and support the panel from external impact.
Heat resistance and strong durability against corrosion are required as the materials are exposed outside for a long time, such as on exterior walls or the roof where there is direct sunlight. Solar panel frames account for about 10 per cent of solar panels, and are mainly made of aluminium alloy.
The ‘LUPOY EU5201’, developed by LG Chem, is a high-performance engineering plastic material that supplements the mechanical properties of general plastics by adding glass fibre to polycarbonate compounds.
It has the same level of durability as existing aluminium, but is half the weight and compares favourably in terms of price competitiveness.
Also, it has excellent dimensional stability that maintains its shape even in temperature changes, so it is not easily deteriorated or deformed by the external environment.
The chemical decomposition caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays has been reduced, which has significantly improved the lifespan of the product compared to general plastics, and the colour remains the same even after long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays.
If aluminium is replaced with LG Chem’s new engineering plastic material, the weight of the solar panel is expected to decrease dramatically and material cost can also be reduced.
This can bring increased convenience during transportation and installation.
LG Chem has PCR PC (Post-Consumer Recycled Polycarbonate) development technology that recycles plastics used by general consumers, so the Company can also produce eco-friendly low-carbon products using high-content PCR raw materials at the request of customers.
The Company also plans to review ways to collect the solar panel frame that will be discarded in the future and reproduce them into PCR PC.
LG Chem has secured mass production capability during the first half of this year and started selling products in full-scale in the third quarter.
Starting with the supply for solar panel frames, the Company plans to expand the application of materials to interior and exterior materials of automobiles in the future.
Steven Kim, leader of the engineering materials division at LG Chem, stated: “Solar panel frames made of plastic have many advantages that differentiate them from existing frames, such as ease of installation, and therefore has great market potential.
“Based on the world’s best compounding technology, LG Chem plans to lead the rapidly growing solar material market through continuous R&D and investment into mass production capabilities.”