University of Delaware Breaks Solar Efficiency Record

UD-led team sets solar cell record, joins DuPont on $100 million project

Using a novel technology that adds multiple innovations to a very high-performance crystalline silicon solar cell platform, a consortium led by the University of Delaware has achieved a record-breaking combined solar cell efficiency of 42.8 percent from sunlight at standard terrestrial conditions.

That number is a significant advance from the current record of 40.7 percent announced in December and demonstrates an important milestone on the path to the 50 percent efficiency goal set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Go Delaware! For some reason I never envisioned Delaware on the cutting edge of solar technology.

6 thoughts on “University of Delaware Breaks Solar Efficiency Record”

  1. Note that this is a DARPA project to save weight on battery packs for soldiers deployed in the field. Cost may not be as important a factor. Solar has been competitive for offgrid remote locations for some time.

    A number of companies are working on “solar concentrators” to reduce the amount of expensive silicon required. I like this one:

    EI Sunflower

    It appeals to my engineer brain. Combination of simple, elegent design and cheap Chinese manufacturing.

    The problem with concentrators is they have to be aimed and tracked with the sun. Power can go down to zero if off by even a few degrees.

  2. Does anyone have more details on this cell? High efficiency multijunction cells use layers of semiconductor material, each tuned for certain wavelengths. The top layer captures only high energy photons with lower energy photons passing thru to layers below. It seems the U-Del cell instead puts the “layers” side by side and uses prism-like optics to split the incoming sunlight. Makes sense and might be a lot cheaper.

    But the press release mentions 20x magnification without tracking. Magnification makes sense — if you’ve got a layer that splits incoming sunlight anyway you might as well have it concentrate the light at the same time and reduce your semiconductor requirement an order of magnitude. But 20x is very high for a non-tracking concentrator. This issue is important to get a feel for the potential economics.

  3. I assume that of the old good, cheap, fast, pick 2 maxim, cheap is the most important. The biggest problem with solar is the cost. Your previous article mentioned $7/W, which did not include storage systems. Efficiency helps cost by reducing the area of panels that have to be installed. the question is does the extra cost of efficiency offset the savings of smaller panels?

  4. Every unit of increased efficiency improves the payback with concentrating systems.

    The above uses fresnel lenses to focus light “down” rather than back up onto a surface. You only need a tiny slice of material, so per-unit cost means nothing when the concentrator is relatively cheap or has good leverage factors like the greenhouse system has (thermal, photosynthetic)

    One thing I like about the above system is the concept of phasing lightwaves. Make 10% effecient light into near-100% light by bending light waves. Sorta like how we have Blu-ray or HD DVD players. Blue lasers don’t actually exist: we’re just using old red lasers but phasing the light to blue to effect the benefits of a “sharper” wavelenghth.

  5. Slice of material? What are you talking about? According to they use no photovoltaics there. They use solar thermal with oil at the focal line. I assume they use solar thermal because it’s cheaper per KWH than PV. Storing the energy as heat in the oil eliminates the need for batteries, which I expect also lowers the cost.

    I like the example of concentrating photovoltaics. They say in Upgradeability: unlike traditional PV technology, the CS500 is upgradeable, enabling it to take advantage of future advances in PV technology. The CS500 photovoltaic cells make up around 20% (by value) of the investment in the CS500 and can be easily replaced with newer, higher efficiency modules. This means that the original investment can be enhanced rather than made obsolete by technology improvement in contrast to flat plate technology where the whole installation must be replaced.

  6. clee said…
    “Slice of material? What are you talking about?”

    You could place PV in the focal point. They even discuss this in the pdf download, assuming you read that. Ofcourse, you’d still get plenty of solarthermal as that focal point will get pretty hot and cooling it (collecting the heat) will improve efficiency. I’m thinking maybe a CO2 air-cycle adiabatic chiller would be nice in the greanhouse application.

Comments are closed.