MIT Research Could Dramatically Improve Solar Cell Efficiency
An artist’s rendering of the extraction of electrons from a solar cell during a photo incident. Researchers at MIT have proven that this occurrence can knock loose more than one electron -- achieving a singlet exciton fission process -- breaking the previous limit and paving the way to improve the efficiency of solar cells beyond the current 34 percent theoretical limit. (Source: MIT/Christine Daniloff)
This is an interesting and potentially valuable discovery, that is certain. Proving that some well thought theoretical limit is not a true limit is a worthwhile achievement, no question about that.
But it has been pointed out that pentacine is not really a very stable compound, and that would add quite a bit to the challenge of commercialization. So the path from laboratory discovery to a reproducable experiment will take some real effort and a few breakthroughs, and achieving a commercially viable realization may require some more fundamental advances.
One thing that I would wonder about, the increase of 1.09 electrons per 1 photon, equates to 109 per hundred photons, which is just barely beyond the level of uncertainty in some kinds of measurements. So, as in other physics experiments, it would be quite appropriate now for more details to be published so that others could duplicate the experiment. After all, that is the standard process for validating some new claim, which is for others to be able to obtain similar results based on the published data. Sometimes, when results seem to be far better than reality would predict, it is found that those results are not so very correct. I realize the immense pressure to publish these findings prior to others publishing them, so I wish the authors good luck.
Indeed, a.saji, with all the research in this area there should be improvements fast. And hopefully one day solar will be seamlessly integrated into more traditional power grids for even more widespread impact.
Pentacene, this compound, which is a purple powder, slowly degrades upon exposure to air and light. This is greath ideea to improve overall solar cells effciency but is just a research result. I hope it will find a way (somehow) to production or will trigger additional ideeas in this direction....
Agree, Lou, perhaps the headline should have been changed during editing before the story was posted. But I think the idea is this potentially could set a precedent for the future development of solar cells in a way that's very different from what's happening now, so in some ways I guess the case could be made for a "dramatic" improvement. Point taken, though.
While I'm no Physicist or Chemist, I'm having a hard time understanding 1.09 electrons per photon.
Putting that aside, it was 1983 when I wrote my Thesis for my Bachelor's degree on the topic of Photovoltaic cell manufacturing. At the time, the exchange elements being used were Boron and Silicone, and the energy efficiency yield was generally accepted to be at about 10%.
So, today, 30 years later, its now 30%, and MIT considers this a breakthrough. Seems like an average efficiency improvement of about 1% per year. ( * sigh * ) It's a long, slow road, but I guess it's still progress.
This is one area of research that I believe is eventually going to pay off significantly in terms of conserving natural energy resources.The efficiency gains may not be huge for now, but it's a step in the right direction. Ultimately, it's bringing us closer to an eco-friendly environment.
Highly regarded engineer and physicist Ransom Stephens speaks with Design News about his extensive science and engineering background, the serious yet funny study of neuroscience, and how one primes their brain for innovation.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.