New record – 42.8% solar cell efficiency achieved

A consortium of researchers led by the University of Delaware has achieved a record breaking combined solar cell efficiency of 42.8% from sunlight at standard conditions.

The previous record of 40.7% set in December by Boeing-Spectrolab was broken by the new solar cells that use a new lateral optical concentraing system that splits the sunlight into three different energy types (high, medium, and low) and then directs them onto the most efficient part of the cell for the type of light.

Another benefit of the new cells is that they are much thinner than other concetrating solar cells.

“Modern solar cell systems rely on the concentration of the sun’s rays, a concept similar to youngsters using magnifying glasses to set scraps of paper on fire. Christiana Honsberg, co-principal investigator and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the previous best of 40.7 percent efficiency was achieved with a high concentration device that requires sophisticated tracking optics and features a concentrating lens the size of a table and more than 30 centimeters, or about 1 foot, thick.

The UD consortium’s devices are potentially far thinner at less than 1 centimeter. “This is a major step toward our goal of 50 percent efficiency,” Allen Barnett, principal investigator and UD professor of electrical and computer engineering said. “The percentage is a record under any circumstance, but it’s particularly noteworthy because it’s at low concentration, approximately 20 times magnification. The low profile and lack of moving parts translates into portability, which means these devices easily could go on a laptop computer or a rooftop. ”

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