Solar cells made of monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si), also called single-crystalline silicon (single-crystal-Si), and are quite easily recognizable by an external even coloring and uniform look, indicating high-purity silicon.
Monocrystalline solar cells are made out of silicon ingots, which are cylindrical in shape. To optimize performance and lower costs of a single monocrystalline solar cell, four sides are cut out of the cylindrical ingots to make silicon wafers, which is what gives monocrystalline solar panels their characteristic look.
A good way to separate mono- and polycrystalline solar panels is that polycrystalline solar cells look perfectly rectangular with no rounded edges.
Polycrystalline cells are made from similar silicon material except that instead of being grown into a single crystal, they are melted and poured into a mold. This forms a square block that can be cut into square wafers with less waste of space or material than round single-crystal wafers. As the material cools, it crystallizes in an imperfect manner, forming random crystal boundaries. The efficiency of energy conversion is slightly lower. This merely means that the size of the finished module is slightly greater per watt than most single crystal modules. The cells look different from single crystal cells. The surface has a jumbled look with many variations of blue color. In fact, they are quite beautiful like sheets of gemstone.
In addition to the above processes, some companies have developed alternatives such as ribbon growth and growth of crystalline film on glass. Most crystalline silicon technologies yield similar results, with high durability. Twenty-five-year warranties are common for crystalline silicon modules. Single crystal tends to be slightly smaller in size per watt of power output, and slightly more expensive than polycrystalline.
The construction of finished modules from crystalline silicon cells is generally the same, regardless of the technique of crystal growth. The most common construction is by laminating the cells between a tempered glass front and a plastic backing, using a clear adhesive similar to that used in automotive safety glass. It is then framed with aluminum.