NREL breaks two world records for efficiency with new solar cells

NREL breaks two world records for efficiency with new solar cells

scientists at the national renewable energy laboratory (NREL) have created a six-junction solar cell with an efficiency of nearly 50%, marking the world record for the highest solar conversion efficiency at 47.1%. a variation of the same cell also set the efficiency record under one-sun illumination at 39.2%.


‘this device really demonstrates the extraordinary potential of multijunction solar cells,’ comments john geisz, principal scientist in the high-efficiency crystalline photovoltaic group at NREL and lead author of a new paper on the record-setting cell.


the device was constructed by NREL researchers with III-V materials which have a wide range of light absorption properties. each of the cell’s six junctions — the photoactive layers — has been specially designed to capture light from a specific part of the solar spectrum. the device contains about 140 total layers of various III-V materials to support the performance of these junctions, and yet is three times narrower than a human hair. due to their highly efficient nature and the cost associated with making them, III-V solar cells are most often used to power satellites.


‘one way to reduce cost is to reduce the required area,’ geisz continues. ‘and you can do that by using a mirror to capture the light and focus the light down to a point. then you can get away with a hundredth or even a thousandth of the material, compared to a flat-plate silicon cell. you can use a lot less semiconductor material by concentrating the light. an additional advantage is that the efficiency goes up as you concentrate the light.’

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