Solar energy efficiency record broken by National Renewable Energy LaboratoryJanuary 1, 2013
Researchers set new world record for solar energy efficiency
Solar power is one of the most popular forms of alternative energy today. The concept of harnessing the energy potential of the sun has led to the development of innovative technologies and energy systems that have helped reduce the reliance on fossil-fuels that many countries around the world experience. Efficiency, however, has been a major problem that has kept solar energy from replacing traditional power sources. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have been focusing on improving the efficiency of solar panels, and they may have recently made a breakthrough in this endeavor.
15 years of research pays off
Scientists from the III-V Multijunction Photovoltaics Group with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have been working on producing high efficiency solar cells for the past 15 years. During this time, researchers have tested a wide array of materials that could be used to create solar cells, many of which produced lackluster results. Recently, however, the team discovered a material that was capable of boosting the efficiency of solar cells to new heights, breaking the current efficiency record for solar energy systems.
Researchers exploit band gaps
Through a complex mix of materials, researchers were able to focus more on band gaps, which is an energy that characterized how materials absorbs photons from sunlight. The potential of band gaps is determined entirely by the light spectrum, so researchers had to expand their focus on said spectrum in order to exploit these band gaps. Doing so allowed the team to develop a solar cell that could produce electricity at a 44% efficiency rate, higher than the previous world record of 43.5% efficiency.
New solar cells could be ready for commercialization in just a few months
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory team believes that their high efficiency solar cells could be used in concentrated solar energy systems to great effect. Researchers suggest that the solar cells could be ready for utility scale applications in a matter of months, which could be a major boon for the solar energy industry. The industry has long struggled to convince consumers that solar energy is a feasible form of renewable power, constantly confronted with the problem of efficiency.