Solar3D just unveiled the first prototype of a new three-dimensional photovoltaic cell that it claims can achieve a groundbreaking internal efficiency of 25.47%. Traditional solar cells on today’s market waste as much as 30% of incident sunlight due to reflection – energy that the three-dimensional solar cell should be able to harness. Solar3D claims this next generation of solar cells will be “dramatically more efficient”, which ultimately will make solar more affordable.
Scanning electron microscope image taken of the initial prototype. These micro-photovoltaic structures trap and convert photons into electrons
To produce its 3D solar cell the company worked with Panasonic and found inspiration in fiber optic devices and the light-management techniques that are used to create them. Their three-dimensional design includes micro-photovoltaic structures that “trap” photons, keeps them around until they are successfully converted into electrons.
Solar3D‘s technology also trumps conventional solar cells with its wide angle of light collection. Today’s typical solar cell is notoriously inefficient during morning and evening hours. The cell surface of Solar3D’s solar cell forces electrons into the micro-photovoltaic structures you can see above. Solar3D states: “As the sun moves across the sky, throughout the day or year, the Solar3D cell will be able to maintain its high conversion efficiency, as if the sun was directly above it.”
“We are pleased to announce the successful fabrication our initial prototype. After the rigorous research and analytical effort of completing an optimized design of our high efficiency 3D solar cell using advanced semiconductor software, our next challenge was making a working prototype. […] Now, we have put that process to the test and successfully fabricated a meaningful area of precise 3-dimensional photovoltaic nanostructures on the surface of a silicon wafer.” Says Dr. Changwan Son, the Director of Technology at Solar3D.
The bottom line is this: Traditional crystalline-based solar cells typically have a conversion rate between 15 to 19 percent, while Solar3D claims to have an internal efficiency of 25.47%. This is a bold claim, but if they succeed while keeping production costs down there’s a good chance that three-dimensional solar cells are here to stay.
Images by Solar3D