Sharp just signaled a bright future for renewable energy as it achieved a new solar cell efficiency record of 43.5%, eclipsing its previous record of 36.9% set in November. Sharp shattered the efficiency record with its concentrator triple-junction compound solar cell, which uses a lens-based system to focus sunlight directly onto the cells in order to generate electricity. This latest breakthrough puts solar power one step closer to grid parity.
Assorted solar cell firms have been doing everything they can in recent years to make solar technology more efficient. This includes developing different types of cells (such as thin-film or crystalline silicon) in order to find a way to increase light absorption.
In a press statement, Sharp said: “Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium. The basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses Sharp’s proprietary technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer.”
“To achieve this latest increase in conversion efficiency, [we] capitalized on the ability of this cell to efficiently convert sunlight collected via three photo-absorption layers into electricity. Sharp also optimized the spacing between electrodes on the surface of the concentrator cell and minimized the cell’s electrical resistance.”
Currently the solar panels that are available on the market only have an efficiency of 15-20%, but it is hoped that as this efficiency increases, their popularity will grow and prices will fall. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long for Sharp’s technology to reach the domestic market – currently it is only used in space satellites, however the company has said that it’s planning to adapt it for use here on earth.
In case you doubt Sharp’s claim, rest assured that the conversion efficiency record was confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy. However interestingly, it matches the record that was achieved by US solar firm Solar Junction in March last year. Well, there’s nothing like a bit of competetive spirit – and if it gets us that bit closer to that elusive 50% efficiency goal, then we’re all for it.