Company claims new solar efficiency record

Posted by Kate Taylor

Californian company Solar3D says it believes it's created the most efficient solar cells  ever developed.

It says tests on its three-dimensional silicon solar cell indicates a conversion efficiency of 25.47 percent, dramatically higher than current technology.

"Our recent tests involve a larger design that contains multiple micro 3D photovoltaic structures that will make up a complete Solar3D cell. The results have exceeded our expectations," says Jim Nelson, president and CEO of Solar3D.

"If the results of the simulations hold up in fabrication, as we expect, our cell’s performance will be the highest conversion efficiency achieved in silicon solar cells."

The company’s technology is based on a three-dimensional design which increases the cell surface area, allowing each solar cell to extract much more incident sunlight.

Up to 30 percent of incident sunlight is currently reflected off the surface of conventional solar cells, with more lost inside the solar cell materials.

Using light management techniques similar to those used in fiberoptic devices, the Solar3D three-dimensional design traps sunlight inside micro-photovoltaic structures where photons bounce around until they are converted into electrons. The increased efficiency, says the company, mskes it a much cheaper alternative to conventional solar cells.

"Our objective has always been to change the world by providing affordable solar power. At this level of conversion efficiency and expected manufacturing cost, we intend to do just that," Nelson says.

"It will be continuing increases in solar cell efficiency, along with decreases in manufacturing costs, that will drive solar electricity to economic parity with current methods of power generation."

Solar3D says it's now looking for a fabrication partner, most likely in the semiconductor industry, to commercialize the design.