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Researchers set World Record for solar cell efficiency of 34.5%

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An new type of solar cell has achieved 34.5% conversion of sunlight to energy. It’s a world record and 44% improvement from previous efficiency of 24%, Created by Mark Keevers and Martin Green of UNSW’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics. Two years earlier, they create a solar cell which converted 40 % of light to energy, but by required concentration of light rays by mirrors. But this new cell is capable of 34.5% efficiency without the use of mirrors.

solar cell 1

“This encouraging result shows that there are still advances to come in photovoltaics research to make solar cells even more efficient,” Keevers said in a statement.

“Extracting more energy from every beam of sunlight is critical to reducing the cost of electricity generated by solar cells as it lowers the investment needed, and delivering payback faster.”

Currently, the device consists of 4 modules of 28 square centimeters contained inside a prism. When sunlight falls on the prism, It gets split into different bands of light and then the bands are absorbed by different modules of different materials.

The solar cell has three layers. Each layer is made of different material capable of extracting energy from a fixed wavelength of light. When light passes through a layer, a specific band of light gets converted to energy and remaining band passes through that layer and hits another layer. Each and every band gets absorbed till they reach third layer. Infrared light gets reflected sideways as shown in the figure, and hits the silicon layer where it gets converted to energy.

But this design is too complex to be used for rooftop implementation. It’s too costly. The researchers are working on reducing cost and complexity.

solar cell 2“What’s remarkable is that this level of efficiency had not been expected for many years. A recent study by Germany’s Agora Energiewende think tank set an aggressive target of 35 percent efficiency by 2050 for a module that uses unconcentrated sunlight, such as the standard ones in family homes,” Green said.

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