Among thin-film photovoltaic technology, cadmium telluride (CdTe) has achieved a truly impressive development that can commercially compete with silicon, which is still the king of the market. Solar cells made on a laboratory scale have reached efficiencies close to 22%, while modules made with fully automated in-line machines show efficiencies above 18%. This success represents the result of over 40 years of research, which led to effective and consolidated production processes. Based on a large literature survey on photovoltaics and on the results of research developed in our laboratories, we present the fabrication processes of both CdTe polycrystalline thin-film solar cells and photovoltaic modules. The most common substrates, the constituent layers, their interaction, the interfaces and the different “tricks” necessary to obtain highly efficient devices will be analyzed. A realistic industrial production process will be analytically described. Moreover, environmental aspects, end-of-life recycling and the life cycle assessment of CdTe-based modules will be deepened and discussed.
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