The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and their industry partner Solar Junction, have just set the bar even higher in the race for ultra-high-effiency photovoltaic (PV) cells by achieving another world record of 44% efficiency.
The newest cells build on previous successes with multi-junction PV cells (which use layered semiconductors, with each layer optimized to capture different wavelengths of light) and combine them with low-cost concentrating lenses to multiply the intensity of the sun’s energy hitting the cells.
Last year, NREL and Solar Junction set a record in efficiency with their SJ3 cells, which are designed for use in utility-scale concentrated solar photovoltaic projects. The SJ3 was verified as being able to convert 43.5% (at 415 suns – a measurement of the intensity of the sun’s energy when multiplied) of the energy in sunlight into electricity, but this latest iteration set a new high of 44% efficiency (at 947 suns).
The breakthrough garnered NREL yet another R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine, their third so far, and according to them, it, along with other advances, could “pave the way for a 50%-efficient solar cell in the not-distant future”.