Saturday, December 01, 2018 by RJ Jhonson
Scientists from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have just discovered a way to build thinner but more efficient solar panels, able to harness more power from the sun than current and conventional solar cells.
The new technology is a perovskite-CIGS tandem solar cell, which means it is composed of two layers. On top is a thin layer of perovskite, an inexpensive material made from iodine and lead. This material has been shown in previous studies and trials to be very efficient at capturing energy from the sun. The perovskite was sprayed into a solar cell made from a compound of CIGS or copper, indium, gallium, and selenide.
The new cell converts 22.4 percent of the energy from the sun into usable power. This is a record high among perovskite-CIGS tandem solar cells. Independent tests conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory confirmed this outcome. For comparison, the previous record had a conversion efficiency of only 10.9 percent, lower than that of a conventional solar cell, which clocks from 11 to 15 percent.
“With our tandem solar cell design, we’re drawing energy from two distinct parts of the solar spectrum over the same device area. This increases the amount of energy generated from sunlight compared to the CIGS layer alone,” Yang Yang, the leader of the research team, explains.
Yang emphasized that incorporating the perovskite layer into existing solar cell manufacturing processes is both easy and inexpensive. This makes the technology accessible not just to manufacturers but also to potential buyers should it hit the market. (Related: Solar power for the whole world could be generated from a relatively small patch of land, says report.)
One more notable characteristic of the solar cell is its thinness. Its CIGS base layer measures just 2 microns – about two-thousandths of a millimeter – thick and yet it converts about 18.7 percent of the sun’s energy by itself. The entire solar cell sits on a glass substrate that’s about 2 millimeters thick.
The new solar cell is, by itself, a revolution, but the research team behind it has no plans of stopping just yet. Their next goal is to improve their technology’s conversion efficiency to 30 percent.
The study was published in the journal Science.
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Learn more about solar energy at Power.news.