Top 100: The most desirable cars of all time

Four-junction, four-terminal stacked solar cell hits 43.9 percent efficiency

By

April 30, 2014

Arrays of stacked multi-junction cells achieving ultra high efficiencies were produced usi...

Arrays of stacked multi-junction cells achieving ultra high efficiencies were produced using a printing-based assembly process

Image Gallery (3 images)

The ultimate goal of solar cell technology is to be able to generate electricity at costs lower than sources such as coal, natural gas and nuclear. Key to this is continuing improvements in conversion efficiency, and with the development of the first four-junction, four-terminal stacked solar cell produced using a micro transfer printing process, researchers have taken another step towards this goal by achieving efficiencies of up to 43.9 percent, with the possibility of exceeding 50 percent in the near future.

The multilayer, microscale solar cell was created by North Carolina-based Semprius Inc. and California-based Solar Junction, working in collaboration with a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign led by Professor John Rogers. Using Semprius' proprietary high-speed micro transfer printing process high that it says is able to simultaneously produce thousands of stacked microcells with very high yields, the team stacked a triple-junction microcell on top of a single-junction microcell to create a four-junction, four-terminal stacked solar cell.

The team says the use of four junctions allows the stacked cell to capture a broader range of the solar spectrum, while the use of four terminals rather than the standard two increases the yield of the solar cell under normal operation in the field. Additionally, a new interfacial material that is placed between the top and bottom cells helps to optimize overall efficiency by minimizing optical losses within the stack.

The top cell in the stacked 3-junction/germanium assembly captures wavelengths between 300...

The triple-junction solar cell is covered in an anti-reflective coating to ensure efficient transmission of light to the uppermost layers, while the bottom cell is a single-junction germanium microcell. Light with wavelengths between 300 and 1,300 nm is captured by the triple-junction cell, while light with wavelengths from 1,300 to 1,700 nm passes through to the germanium cell. The result is a multilayer, microscale solar cell that the team says outperforms conventional silicon and single-junction solar cell in terms of efficiency.

"The strategy involves high-speed, printing-based manipulation of thin, microscale solar cells and new interface materials to bond them into multilayer stacks,” Rogers said. "Quadruple-junction, four-terminal solar cells that we can build in this way have individually measured efficiencies of 43.9 percent."

However, Semprius, which was co-founded by Rogers in 2006 to commercialize ultrahigh efficiency photovoltaic modules, promises that the same process will be capable of achieving efficiencies exceeding 50 percent in the near future.

Like the 44.4 percent efficiency record reported by Sharp last year, the 43.9 percent efficiency figure was achieved using a lens system to concentrate light onto the solar cells. Using a dual-stage optics system, the incident sunlight was focused more than 1,000 times. Modules created from the microscale solar cells also achieved efficiencies of 36.5 percent under the same conditions.

"This is very nice work," stated Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn't involved in the research. "The results are impressive, and the schemes appear to provide a route to ultra-high efficiency photovoltaics, with strong potential for utility-scale power generation."

Rogers is first author of a paper detailing the new solar cell that is published this week in the journal Nature Materials.

Sources: Semprius, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
8 Comments

If the oil industry would pour as much money into alternative energy research as they do into oil exploration and exploitation, we'd be a lot further along by now.

Snatr
1st May, 2014 @ 10:09 am PDT

If they don't increase the density shown in that top photo by about a factor of 16 the efficiency will be meaningless.

Cool optical illusion in the second photo, though. When you smooth scroll down it shifts to the right a bit and bounces back when you stop.

DonGateley
1st May, 2014 @ 01:07 pm PDT

Isn't the idea of solar to combat global warming?, yet it seems to me that these devices are ultimately converting almost 100% of the suns energy into atmospheric warmth!

Someone needs to do a study to figure out how much less heat gets sent back into space from an average roof, as compared to one covered in black solar cells making electricity that ends up as heat...

christopher
1st May, 2014 @ 06:22 pm PDT

I wonder if their results are heavily dependent on Semprius' proprietary high-speed micro transfer printing process? If so, are they going to be willing to release that process so that these tests can be repeated by independent facilities?

Rt1583
1st May, 2014 @ 07:20 pm PDT

@ Christopher - The 'input' from the sun is huge and reduced reflection from solar PV won't make a dent. www.skepticalscience.com is a great place to get verified answers re global warming.

As for the article: I wish the "four terminal" concept was explained; I don't understand why it would increase the yield.

There are two exiting things here:

1) efficiency gains but perhaps more importantly

2) the high speed printing process. In the real world we'd rather have fast automated production than small gains. You can always add panels later as they improve - plenty of space to put them.

moreover
2nd May, 2014 @ 07:45 am PDT

Great now find a place where the Sun Shines 24/7

Matthew Jacobs
2nd May, 2014 @ 03:20 pm PDT

Further efficiency can be gained by cooling the backside of the cell and harvesting the heat. There are already several companies working along this line. Coupling an improved, and improving multi-junction top cell with a bottom that removes heat, effectively chilling the top improves light conversion and provides a useful heat flow at the lower temp end of the process heat range. This has been shown to push total system capture past the 50% mark.

StWils
10th May, 2014 @ 05:33 pm PDT

sun focused 1,000 times to get that "efficiency" ... If solar can ever work then it needs to work for individual homes ... this won't ... nice research though ...

at this point the problem for solar is batteries and the fact that you can't control the weather (clouds) ...

Jeffrey J Carlson
16th May, 2014 @ 09:16 am PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 29,884 articles
Recent popular articles in Electronics
Product Comparisons