Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NREL Sets New World Record with Two-Junction Solar Cell

NREL Sets New World Record with Two-Junction Solar Cell

Scientist Myles Steiner has announced that The Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has set a new world record at 31.1% for a two-junction solar cell. The research team at NREL beat Alta Devices` previous record by 0.3%.
The new solar cell consists of a layer of gallium indium phosphide on a gallium arsenide cell. Bilayer anti-reflective coating sits on the top of the cell and a reflective gold contact layer is attached to the bottom. In other words, far more costly materials than what we currently use in the highest-efficiency crystalline-based solar panels.
NREL efficiency chart
NREL`s latest chart of best research-cell efficiencies (up-to-date with the new world record) can be found here.
The new record will likely be beaten in short time. NREL is determined to get closer to the 48% efficiency goal set by Department of Energy`s F-PACE project.
Although the solar market is currently dominated by different types of crystalline silicon (90%), scientists see a lot of opportunity in other materials. Multi-junction solar cells are currently the preferred type of solar cell for applications in space. High efficiency goes hand-in-hand with space-efficiency (surface) and is therefore of higher importance than costs.
There`s a lot of things happening in the solar industry nowadays. Recently Sharp announced that they have created the most efficient solar cell to date, with an incredible 44.4% efficiency rate.
Whether or not we will ever see multi-junction solar cells in widespread use here on earth remains to see. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to follow NREL as they get closer and closer to 48%, and keep pushing the threshold of what is possible with photovoltaic technology.


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