New Solar Cell Technology is Most Efficient Yet

Shine bright like a stacked cell single device.

A study from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. has outlined a new design for solar cells that resulted in the most efficient method yet for taking sunlight and transferring it to usable energy. The new prototype integrates multiple stacked cells into a singular device that can potentially capture nearly all the energy in the solar spectrum.

The new idea converts direct sunlight to electricity with a 44% efficiency, meaning it has the potential to be the most effective solar cell ever created. By comparison, typical solar cells only convert about a quarter of available energy.

The approach for these solar cells is a bit different than commonly seen panels on houses or rooftops. This new iteration uses small one square millimeter concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that utilize lenses to concentrate sunlight. The small size means more sophisticated materials can be developed much more cost-effectively.

The cells in the panel are stacked and act like a sieve for sunlight, with the specific materials in each layer taking in the energy of a certain wavelength from the sun.

“Our new device is able to unlock the energy stored in the long-wavelength photons, which are lost in conventional solar cells,” said Matthew Lumb, lead author of the study. “[The technology] therefore provides a pathway to realizing the ultimate multi-junction solar cell.”

This solar cell will be very expensive to produce, but it is important to prove the upper limit of what may be possible in terms of overall efficiency.