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New Thin Film Solar Cells 'achieve 13.4 per cent efficiency'

14th Mar 2012

The efficiency of solar cells is something that many scientists are striving to improve - and it seems that a team in California has managed just that.

SoloPower, a San Jose-based manufacturer of thin film solar cells and modules, claims to have achieved an aperture area efficiency of 13.4 per cent - a record for the type of systems it produces.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory was responsible for measuring the level of efficiency, which SoloPower believes could benefit energy customers all over the world.

"This benchmark is a testament to our technology team and to our commitment to continuously pushing the envelope in power and performance, while reducing costs for our customers," noted chief executive officer Tim Harris.

Earlier this week, experts based at Perdue University in the US revealed they had taken steps to make solar power more effective through the development of new cell types.

They combined nanotechnology with natural materials, which has the potential to lower costs during the production process and make solar electricity a major player in the production of energy.

Copper zinc tin sulphide was used during the production process before being synthesised into nanocrystals, in a bid to make the cells as inexpensive as possible.

Chemical engineering professor Rakesh Agrawal pointed out that the cost of the cells has been a major consideration for the team when constructing the cells.

Erik Sheets, a graduate student working in the lab, said: "It is way cheaper. Most of the market right now is silicon solar cell, and it is really expensive and uses a high-energy process."

The cells constructed by SoloPower use flexible copper indium gallium (di)selenide, which has been made possible by efficiency improvement projects over the past two years.

Chief technology officer Dr Mustafa Pinarbasi emphasised that the efficiency of the cells has been increased from 11.2 to 13.4 per cent, while new processes have been implemented in the roll-to-roll production line.

He identified that a "strong pipeline of improvements" are still to be made over the coming months.

It is not only the cells themselves that are being improved by scientists, but also the form of the panels themselves.

Marco Rosa-Clot, a professor at Florence University, has developed solar panels that float on water, which will help address some of the issues that arise when trying to cool them down.

Furthermore, the modules are able to track the sun more effectively.

Posted by Mike Peacock


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