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Spectrolab beats its own solar cell efficiency world record

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November 19, 2013

Spectrolab has achieved a new world record efficiency for a multi-junction solar cell (Pho...

Spectrolab has achieved a new world record efficiency for a multi-junction solar cell (Photo: Shutterstock)

Spectrolab has set a new solar cell efficiency record of 38.8 percent for a ground-based multi-junction solar cell. The new world record doesn't exactly smash the previous mark of 37.8 percent, which was also set by Spectrolab, but is welcome news in a field where every percentage point counts.

Although efficiencies of over 44 percent have been achieved with concentrator triple-junction compound solar cells that use a lens-based system to concentrate sunlight onto them, the 38.8 percent efficiency figure was verified by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory as being a new world record for a ground-based solar cell without the use of concentrated sunlight.

Spectrolab, a subsidiary of Boeing and part of the Boeing Defense, Space & Security defense and aerospace unit, is best known for supplying solar cells and panels for use in spacecraft and satellites. Multi-junction solar cells contain several different semiconductor materials and Boeing says the new semiconductor bonding technology used to create the 38.8 percent efficiency solar cell could be used to power high-power spacecraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Source: Boeing

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
5 Comments

Very good! Now let's see these on the open market and at an affordable price? :-)

mrhuckfin
20th November, 2013 @ 04:28 am PST

No mention of the cost tells me this is expensive. But that is no problem for NASA or any govt. agency. And its good for the defense contractors also. Taxpayers suffer twice, 1. They pay. 2. They don't see a commercial application because there is no incentive to adapt one with all the excessive profit in govt. contracts.

Don Duncan
20th November, 2013 @ 09:58 am PST

Will this technology take 20 years to reach the public marketplace, at an affordable price, as did the silicon wafer tech? Might as well wait for the angles to arrive from outer space.

lon4
20th November, 2013 @ 10:36 am PST

I get the idea that spectrolab doesn't actually make cells/panels for sale. they just develop/research and license them...except maybe for in house use!

too bad, because the world could really use the improvements.

notarichman
20th November, 2013 @ 10:57 am PST

Hate to lean towards the negative, but I would say at least 20 years from being available to the public if ever in its current form. ie - likely going to be available in a few years as a domestic product at 20-25% efficiency, and still considerably more expensive then 15-18% stuff. Or deliberately manufactured with lower reliability (more impurities, poorer solder joints, thinner electrical paths, less environmentally insulated) forcing regular re-purchase or abandonment of product.

Looking at it another way, high efficiency products don't necessarily have to be perpetually expensive. They are initially of course, because of ROI expectations from investors, and initial cost of manufacture in smaller quantities.

But the marketing strategy that follows ramp up will determine how affordable they are to the masses, ie - simplistically, less cost sell more to public, or high cost sell less to defense or aerospace orgs.

Being a sub of Boeing, I would say the latter. And it may just be a stunt to attract a few more shareholders, so there is a point to release this news to the public. If for no other reason then to offer false hope that such a product is almost around the corner, encouraging the masses to put up with high fuel and electricity prices for a few more years because it will get 'better'

The third point on technology of this type, is there is a common practice of buying and shelving patents, an insidious practice rampant in industry as a whole. ie - small companies or subsidiaries of larger companies (tech development sections) develop wonderful technology to benefit humanity. Large independent offers silly money to buy technology patents that compete with their base cash flow.

Technology gets shelved for 20 yrs.

Claim on the media channels from the purchaser "technology is either too expensive" or "unreliable" for mass production. This also discourages others pursuing similar paths. The end.

10 yrs later someone else invents the same thing or similar, process repeats.

Nairda
20th November, 2013 @ 09:35 pm PST
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