A couple of announcements were made this week about advancing the efficiencies of solar cells. Typical current sollar cell efficiency is in the 15% range, so anything that can boost that efficiency is a good thing.
In the first story, an Australian researcher is hitting 20% efficiency along with a possibility of a 60% cut in cost of producing solar cells using something he’s calling “sliver technology.” Sliver technology works by taking a standard 1 millimeter thick solar cell and slicing it into slivers that are just 120 micrometers wide. What this does is greatly increase the surface area of the cell, allowing for a huge reduction in the amount of silicon needed to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells.
“This can also keep manufacturing costs down, as all the processing steps normally carried out on solar cells are done while the slices are still in the ‘loaf’. We’re looking at major reductions in the total cost without the need for major scientific breakthroughs. It’s about doing a good engineering job using known scientific principles, in contrast to some other technologies. The sliver technology is also efficient at converting sunlight to electricity,” he said.” You can read about it at NewKerala.com
The second big announcement is even more interesting. Researchers at Boeing-Spectrolab are producing what’s known as multijunction concentrator solar cells that are getting an outstanding 40.7% efficiency, and the research looks like it will yield even higher efficiencies in the future. The concentrator portion of the cell intensifies the sunlight reaching the cell, and the multijunction part of the cell allows the solar cell to use much more of the solar spectrum than is used by ordinary solar cells. Research is being funded by the US Department of Energy (DoE).
The 40.7% efficiency story is generating lots of comments at computer hardware tech sites like C|Net Anandtech and Geek.com, which is interesting it itself, I think. BlueClimate.com has the full press release posted on their site.
And as always, the Energy Blog has some good comments on this advance