• Dr Mark Keevers with one of the spectrum splitting, four-junction mini-modules developed at UNSW. Photo credit: UNSWDr Mark Keevers with one of the spectrum splitting, four-junction mini-modules developed at UNSW. Photo credit: UNSW

UNSW engineers break new world solar efficiency record

A new solar cell configuration developed by engineers at the UNSW has pushed sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency to 34.5% – establishing a new world record for unfocused sunlight and nudging closer to the theoretical limits for such a device.

Developed by engineers within UNSW’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, the record setting solar cell uses a four-junction mini-module – embedded in a prism – that extracts the maximum energy from sunlight.  It does this by splitting the incoming rays into four bands, using a hybrid four-junction receiver to squeeze even more electricity from each beam of sunlight.

The new UNSW result, confirmed by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is almost 44% better than the previous record – made by Alta Devices of the USA.

The result was obtained by the same UNSW team that set a world record in 2014 - Dr Mark Keevers, Senior Research Fellow and Professor Martin Green, Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics – Professor Green said: “What’s remarkable is that this level of efficiency had not been expected for many years.” A German think tank previously set a target of 35% efficiency to be achieved by 2050.

The 34.5% result with the 28cm2 mini-module is already a world record, but scaling it up to a larger 800-cm2 is well within reach. Dr Keevers explained: “There’ll be some marginal loss from interconnection in the scale-up, but we are so far ahead that it’s entirely feasible”. The theoretical limit for such a four-junction device is thought to be 53%, which puts the current UNSW result two-thirds of the way there.

The UNSW team is now working with international partners to progress the research and development in this area even further.

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