A Franco-German team has beaten the record for the most powerful solar cell. It can convert 44.7% of sunlight into electricity.
If you think solar energy is synonymous with large expanses of expensive panels and low electricity production, you will have to revise your opinion. A Franco-German research team set a new record in September 2013 after three years of research – they produced the most efficient solar panel in the world, able to convert 44.7% of sunlight into electricity, against an average of 20% for conventional panels.
Solar energy innovation is essential in increasing production and reducing the cost of this renewable energy.
A considerable energy gain that means more electricity from smaller installations. The team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, CEA-Leti Grenoble, the company Soitec and the Helmholtz Centre in Berlin, have not stopped there: they have set out to cross the 50% conversion threshold in 2015.
The researchers developed a new solar cell structure drawn from technology used in space. This cell, which measures barely half a centimeter long, can absorb the different ranges of energy in the solar spectrum - from ultraviolet to infrared. So far, this type of cell has been designed to equip concentrated photovoltaic plants, but in the future transferring this technology to certain domestic fields would not be out of the question.
For the time being, solar energy is one of the most expensive to produce. In addition, the production of solar energy varies with the region - the amount of sunshine is not the same in Lille as it is in Nice – and with the vagaries of the climate. Scientific advances in recent years have contributed to improving the efficiency of solar panels and give hope that there will be a bright future for this clean and infinite source of energy.
For more information:
- World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency
- How does it work? Photovoltaic solar energy
- The Director of Fraunhofer ISE talks about the future of the solar industry at the ECO13 summit in Berlin
Main picture: Newest FLATCON® concentrator module with an efficiency of 36.7 %. ©Fraunhofer ISE/ Photo: Alexander Wekkeli