Researchers continue to make gains in getting more energy out of solar cells with a new world record in efficiency of 44.7 percent achieved by a group of German and French scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin.
Solar cell efficiency is the ratio of the electrical output of a solar cell to the incident energy in the form of sunlight. The new efficiency percentage (which was measured at a concentration of 292 suns) surpasses a previous result. In collaboration, the same groups developed a solar cell in May 2013 that achieved a 43.6 percent efficiency.
The new research means that 44.7 percent of the solar spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, was converted into electrical energy, according to researchers.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin achieved a new world record in solar-cell efficiency with a rate of 44.7 percent. (Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE)
The team achieved the new level of efficiency with a four-junction solar cell that took them three years to develop, said Frank Dimroth, the project leader of the research at Fraunhofer ISE, in a
press release on the Fraunhofer website. A four-junction solar cell means the cell has four p-n junctions or interfaces between two types of semiconductor material. Each junction is tuned to a different light wavelength, increasing the efficiency of the overall cell.
Specifically, the solar cell developed by researchers is comprised of four solar subcells based on III-V compound semiconductors for use in concentrator photovoltaics. The concentrator modules are produced by Soitec, which was started in 2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE.
“This world record increasing our efficiency level by more than one point in less than four months demonstrates the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design,” André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec’s chairman and CEO, said in the press release. “It confirms the acceleration of the road map toward higher efficiencies, which represents a key contributor to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration.”
Key to the new technology that achieved 44.7 percent efficiency is a procedure called wafer bonding, which allowed researchers to connect two semiconductor crystals, Dimroth said. This allowed several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials to be stacked on top of each other, with single subcells absorbing different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum. “In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells,” he said.
Though this technology has not made it into the commercial market yet, it is very good news for the future potential of solar cells. Interesting to note that this was achieved by meshing more than one semiconductor together, not achieved from a single solar cell. But, and perhaps an expert reader can correct me if I'm wrong--I think this type of multiple-cell technology is the way forward for solar.
Imagine this in the future. Solar gets so good...instead of putting shingles on your roof you cover it with a solar film....every house produces it's own power! Oh wait...the power companies wouldn't allow that to happen now would they! lol
What if what I said actually happened? No more need for oil. Would our economy just go to heck!? That's why I was saying I don't think it will ever be allowed. The companies that rule will just buy the tech and squash it. It's in their best interests to do so. Am I wrong?
Well I think some people are really catching on this this, Cadman-LT, and actually doing in different parts of the world. It's especially popular with people who are lucky enough to be building their own houses. I have a friend here in Portugal who is building his house with the idea of solar power completely engineered into the design, making windows that will face the sun at optimal times and angles so it will always stay heated, and using solar panels in creative ways. So I think that this vision you mention is not so far off, power companies in agreement or not. And solar will increasingly be part of the power grid, too, which also is a good thing.
Solar will never replace gas/oil/coal. They sun doesn't provide enough energy to maintain our ecosystem as well as provide all of man's power needs. The energy we're we're consuming in the form of oil, gas, and coal, took many millions of years to store. Energy we take from the sun to satisfy our human needs is taken away from the energy normally used to drive our planet's ecosystem. It's impact is insignificant now, but would be catestrophic if we replace all coal, gas, and oil useage with solar, even at 100% efficiency.
On the face of it, your comment sounds wrong. We know that plants are under 3% efficient in conversion of solar energy to plant mass. That means each square meter of solar cell will produce the same gross energy as 15 square meters of plant surface. If we burn the plant mass, we suffer Carnot's indignity, if we ferment to alcohol we suffer more losses, plus the Carnot losses when we burn it. If we use it in fuel cells, that mitigates these losses greatly, but insufficiently to equal 44.7% solar conversion efficiency.
I believe that if we can achieve 44.7% in long lasting affordable cells, that maintain that efficiency for 20 years(even a 40% end point is OK - I would like to see the rate of degradation in service) we can reach a solar millennium, and large scale replacement of central power production (gas, coal, nuclear) will ensue. (Water power will survive for the foreseeable future).
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