Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Power Science Technology

80% Improvement In Solar Cell Efficiency 204

An anonymous reader writes "Chemistry researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory say they've improved the efficiency of typical solar cells by a whopping 80% by creating a 3-D nanocone-based solar cell platform. The technology tackles the problem of poor transport of charges generated by solar photons. These charges — 'negative electrons and positive holes' — typically become trapped by defects in bulk materials and degrade performance. 'We designed the three-dimensional structure to provide an intrinsic electric field distribution that promotes efficient charge transport and high efficiency in converting energy from sunlight into electricity.' Bottom line, they say, is they've boosted the light-to-power conversion efficiency of photovoltaics by 80 percent."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

80% Improvement In Solar Cell Efficiency

Comments Filter:
  • by Thagg ( 9904 ) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @04:47PM (#35979278) Journal

    From the fine article: "With this approach at the laboratory scale, Xu and colleagues were able to obtain a light-to-power conversion efficiency of 3.2 percent compared to 1.8 percent efficiency..."

    So, with a ridiculously bad solar cell, they could increase the efficiency to something that's still ridiculously bad.

    The key to solar cells is watts/dollar.


  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:09PM (#35979544) Homepage

    Efficiency is not irrelevant. A given installer only has a finite amount of space to make use of, installing panels costs money, running wires costs money, etc. And especially if they're on a heliostat, but even if they're not, you have to build them hardy enough to withstand the weather for decades. The per-panel or per-square-meter overhead is not irrelevant, and thus efficiency is not irrelevant.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:21PM (#35979666) Homepage

    Right. The current record for an experimental solar cell technology is around 42%. Mainstream commercial products run 12 to 20%. That's up from 6% in the original Bell Labs solar cells in the 1950s. Single-layer cells have a theoretical limit at 34%, but multi-layer cells can beat that somewhat.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:39PM (#35979832) Homepage

    BUT the fact the solar cells that are available today are basically the same as the ones 15 years ago

    BUT the fact is that you've clearly not paid one iota of attention to the price difference between today's cells versus those of 15 years ago (just so you know, they're about 1/3rd the cost now), nor the chemistry differences between today's cells and those of 15 years ago (go back to 1996 and find me a mass-market CdTe cell, won't you? The largest PV manufacturer in the world is now CdTe)

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:03PM (#35980066) Homepage Journal

    Solar cells are actually significantly ahead of where they were 15 years ago. There's no huge jump, but there really can't be, as we're nearing the theoretical limit of simple pv cells. More complicated cells can do better, but again the maximum amount better is less than 3x, and that is all the improvement we can ever get.

    Have a look at
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell_efficiency [wikipedia.org]

    and you'll see the slow but steady march of progress. That march is reflected in the commercial cells you can buy as well.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Informative)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @07:34PM (#35980940) Homepage Journal

    1-4 years to pay off the energy required to manufacture them. After which they are a net benefit to our economies.

    You can buy the cells anywhere. 15 years ago you could buy 14% efficient cells. Today you can buy 22% cells. Lab cells are approaching the theoretical limit of 29% for simple PV. That's a 50% improvement already, with another 30% on the table, whjch we will see gradually creep into commercialization over the next 15 years as we have over the last 15 years.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Informative)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @07:38PM (#35980976) Homepage Journal

    On the shelves. Commercial efficiencies 15 years ago were about 14-15%. Today, about 22%.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.