In the year of the K 2010 plastics trade fair, BASF offers Ultramid grades (PA) - that have proven their worth in the electrical and electronics sector long since - now for use in connectors and junction boxes of photovoltaic installations.
Photovoltaic installations, also referred to as solar energy systems, fall into the category of electric installations, which is why they have to meet stringent requirements in order to obtain approval for their connection technology. When it comes to the connectors and junction boxes of these systems, BASF can now provide special variants of its Ultramid plastic that are not only flame-resistant and of high strength but show high impact resistance at low temperatures. This is a property that is crucial for the service life of these systems since they are exposed to wind and weather. These special grades have already been in use for years in contactors, motor circuit-breakers and coil formers, in classic electrical and electronic applications, i.e.
The Huber+Suhner company, a leading international manufacturer of systems for electrical and optical connection technology based in Pfäffikon, Switzerland, already uses an Ultramid grade in its latest generation of connectors for solar energy systems. "We have already decided in favor of this high-performance and reliable material because it facilitates the production of our efficient photovoltaic components," explains Max Göldi, head of the product division at Huber+Suhner in Pfäffikon.
Connectors or junction boxes - depending on the application
BASF offers Ultramid A3X2G7 particularly for the field of photovoltaic connectors. This material is very stiff, so that the connectors can be made very slim and yet meet the stringent requirements. For example, Ultramid A3X2G7 meets the UL flammability standard V0 starting at a wall thickness of 0.8 mm, and standard 5VA starting at a wall thickness of 1.5 mm.
When it comes to junction boxes, however, BASF recommends Ultramid A3XZG5. Whereas the damp-heat test only calls for 1000 hours of exposure, this highly impact-resistant modified Ultramid grade provides an ultimate elongation at break that is twice as high as that of the materials used so far, even after 4000 hours of conditioning at 85°C [185°F] and 85% humidity. Moreover, junction boxes made of this material have no problem complying with the demanding cold-impact test according to UL 1703. In order for a component to pass this test, it has to withstand the impact of a 500-gram ball falling from a height of 1.3 meters without displaying any cracks or damage at a temperature of minus 35°C [‑31°F]. Ultramid A3XZG5 meets the required UL flammability standard 5VA starting at 2.3 mm.
In addition, both of these polyamide types are certified in accordance with the f1-weathering test (UL), which is crucial in solar technology. This standard requires the flammability ranking of the product to remain unchanged after 1000 hours of exposure in Xenon UV weathering testing and after seven days of storage in water. After irradiation, strength and impact resistance have to reach at least 70 % of their initial values. This performance profile means that these special Ultramid types are ready for the growing solar technology market. The first components will be showcased at the K 2010 plastics trade fair in Düsseldorf, Germany.