In a major leap for photovoltaics, scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia announced that they’ve developed a solar cell array that’s 34.5 percent efficient at converting unfocused sunlight into electricity. That’s a 44 percent improvement over the last record holder, which only reached 24 percent efficiency with a larger solar array. The key here is that the scientists were testing normal sunlight without any complex concentrators. The same UNWS team, led by Dr. Mark Keevers and Professor Martin Green, also broke the record for concentrated solar power in 2014, reaching over 40 percent efficiency.
There’s a new world record for solar cell efficiency: Australian scientists get closer to the theoretical limits of solar power.
“What’s remarkable is that this level of efficiency had not been expected for many years,” Green said. “A recent study by Germany’s Agora Energiewende think tank set an aggressive target of 35% efficiency by 2050 for a module that uses unconcentrated sunlight, such as the standard ones on family homes.”
To reach the record breaking result, the scientists used a 28 centimeter-square, four-junction mini solar module which was embedded in a prism. The prism split the sun’s rays into four bands, which allowed it to extract more electricity than usual. It also wouldn’t be difficult to scale the setup to a larger 800 centimeter-square array. “There’ll be some marginal loss from interconnection in the scale-up, but we are so far ahead that it’s entirely feasible,” Keevers said.