Here’s how they managed to do it and why this finding is so impressive.
If you’re one of those people who despairs every time you open your electricity bill, today is a day to stand up and cheer.
Australian solar power researchers have achieved a 40.4% conversion rate for solar energy. This is a world record and brings us one step closer to making solar power competitive with coal and fossil fuel-based energy.
The team from the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) at the University of New South Wales used commercially available solar cells but combined these with mirrors and filters to capture energy that usually goes to waste. They stacked three panels to capture different wavelengths of sunlight, then directed the excess sunlight to a fourth panel using mirrors and filters.
Why this feat is so impressive
Previously, top performing PV cells have converted about 36 percent of the light that hits them into electricity. The researchers’ next goal is to raise efficiency levels 42 percent by next year. This is quite ambitious considering that the maximum theoretical solar limit is 86 percent.
The research team achieved the world-beating efficiency outdoors in Sydney. Later, the results were independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States.
“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW professor Martin Green said.
“We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry,” explained Dr. Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist who managed the project.
Photo Credit: USA.Gov – BLM – BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT