Solar Cell Reaches Record-Setting Energy-Conversion Efficiency

Jul 14, 2020 01:10 PM ET
  • A team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory established the six-junction cell, which is thinner than a human hair.
Solar Cell Reaches Record-Setting Energy-Conversion Efficiency

Scientists have actually developed a solar cell thinner than a human hair with a conversion effectiveness of virtually 50 percent, greater than double the effectiveness of devices currently sold on the commercial market and also setting a record for the greatest solar-conversion performance.

A team from at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created the six-junction solar cell, which has a conversion performance of 47.1 percent under controlled lighting. They additionally created a variation on the same cell that under one-sun illumination could convert solar light to energy at a rate of 39.2 percent, likewise a document for this set up.

Commercial solar cells currently have a performance price of about 20 percent to 25 percent relying on the maker. NREL scientists had the ability to much exceed this by concentrating on what are identified as III-V products-- so-called because of their placement on the periodic table-- which have a series of light absorption properties.

Indeed, these materials are amongst the most high-performance solar-conversion materials, utilized in satellites to produce energy. They additionally built a cell with 6 joints to attain the conversion efficiency. This indicates that the cell has 6 p-n joints, or user interfaces, between two kinds of semiconductor material.

Cells with multiple junctions harvest sunshine by separating the solar spectrum right into parts, with each junction tuned to a different light wavelength. This serves to raise the effectiveness of the general cell.

" This device actually shows the amazing possibility of multijunction solar cells," claimed John Geisz, a principal scientist in the High-Efficiency Crystalline Photovoltaics Group at NREL who worked with the project.

Previous recordholders in solar-cell conversion effectiveness were a team of German as well as French scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and also the Helmholtz Center Berlin, that achieved 44.7 percent effectiveness in 2014, and the Department of Energy, which accomplished 45.7 percent performance. Both of these study teams utilized four-junction cells in their work.

Beyond 50 Percent Conversion Efficiency

In total, the cell established by the NREL group consists of regarding 140 layers of different III-V materials to sustain the efficiency of its joints, scientists said. Rather than made to be made use of in space or for normal commercial usage, the cell is rather appropriate for usage in concentrator photovoltaics, stated Ryan France, a scientist in the III-V Multijunctions Group at NREL who additionally worked on the project.

In this sort of photovoltaics, scientists can use less semiconductor product by concentrating the light, which also enhances efficiency.

" One way to lower price is to lower the necessary location," France stated in a press statement. "You can do that by utilizing a mirror to capture the light as well as focus the light down to a factor. Then you can escape a hundredth or perhaps a thousandth of the product, contrasted to a flat-plate silicon cell."

Researchers released a paper on their operate in the journal Nature Energy.

The following difficulty for photovoltaic scientists is to get to half effectiveness and beyond, however there are some hurdles that should be cleared first. The key obstacle to this is that scientists should reduce the repellent obstacles inside the cell that impede the existing circulation, Geisz claimed.

On the other hand, while the capacity for the solar cell to go beyond 50 percent efficiency is "really really achievable," something like 100 percent efficiency is impossible because of the essential limits enforced by thermodynamics, France added.

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