• 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.

You can find out more about research degrees in Australia here.  If you are interesting in studying an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in renewable energy you can find out more about what’s available here, or contact Study Options.

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