Wonderful Engineering

This Solar Panel Just Created A World Record In Efficiency

What you are looking at is the most efficient generation of energy using a solar cell. This latest kind of solar technology has managed to set a world record. This solar technology involves stacking six different layers that are photoactive. The outcome was surprising; a record-setting multi-junction cell that was able to achieve 50% efficiency in the lab and almost 40% in the ‘single sun’ real-life setting.

A multi-junction cell is basically only a solar collector cell that relies on more than a single junction or layer of solar technology. That is because sunlight has a wide variety of wavelengths and different sorts of receivers are capable of picking up only varying wavelengths of lights to encompass most of the complete available spectrum.

Why is this such a big deal? Individual kinds of solar offer varying efficiency, for instance, 8% which implies that 92% of sunlight gets reflected off, and only 8% gets collected in the form of energy. However, when you make a combination using technologies coming from six various solar cells; you can increase efficiency quite appreciably. Also, the more efficient the overall technology becomes, the more we can shrink down the panel size while maintaining the same levels of energy production.

As a result, you can expect cheaper and smaller panels for consumers and the ability to shape them based on the needs of the customers. This particular solar technology has a total of 140 layers comprised of six different materials that are solar collectors. Despite the overwhelming numbers, the collecting surface is merely 1/3rd of the human hair’s thickness. The team was careful when arranging the semiconductors to maximize the usable surface area. The researchers say, ‘Further reduction of the series resistance within this structure could realistically enable efficiencies over 50 [percent].’

The type of semiconductors being used is known as III-V. This is a family of alloys that have been created by merging elements from periodic table group III and from group V. Sandia National Laboratory said in a 2004 report, ‘Because of the unique properties of the compound III-V semiconductors, they have been the source of a rich world of science, technology and applications. This world has, on the science side, led to 7 Nobel Prizes in Physics; and, on the applications side, led to a roughly US$12B global chip market in 2001, projected to become US$31B in 2006.’