The study by a team of professors at Columbia University and MIT shows a 25% increase in solar cell efficiency when used with photo-absorption layers. Now that is something to take notice of.
So just how did this happen? Well, the research was conducted by a group of researchers headed up by Professor Karl J. Kremer of Columbia University’s Department of Atomic Energy and is published in the prestigious Journal of Applied Chemistry. In his study, he and his team showed that the tandem solar cells used in many photovoltaic (PV) applications are much more efficient now than they have ever been. His findings are particularly noteworthy since they directly contradict previous studies which indicated that PV efficiencies within the single crystalline modules were decreasing. In fact, according to Professor Kremer, these results demonstrate that the crystalline layers are becoming more efficient as time goes on. It appears that the decreasing trend is simply a fluctuation and not necessarily indicative of an actual decline in performance.
Three Factors That Contributed To The Record Efficiencies
The researchers discovered three factors that contributed to the record efficiencies seen in their research. First, they found that electron hopping is necessary to induce efficient conductivity, and that silicon possesses this trait. Next, they determined that energy levels between the two silicon atoms needed to achieve the best efficiencies were in perfect balance: a phenomenon called “interference.” Finally, the two silicon atoms were in a “tunneling” field, which essentially means that their mutual attraction and repulsion caused them to actually form a tandem structure. As you might guess, this has completely changed the way we build solar panels.
In order to reach their record-breaking efficiencies, the researchers made drastic changes to their methodology. Rather than using a one-step process, which involves placing the cells flat on a table or surface, they employed what’s called “roll-to-roll” construction. This method enabled them to place the cells in position in just one, simple step. Not only did this expedite the creation of solar cells, but it also led to unprecedented efficiencies.
The “roll-to-roll” construction method can be likened to that of a roll-up banner. In the banner case, there are only a few steps involved; therefore, the entire process takes far less time. Similarly, in solar cell production, the solar cell must be built piece by piece. However, if those pieces do not fit together properly, the overall efficiency of the system suffers, ultimately causing the desired efficiencies to be reached much later than anticipated.
If you’re wondering whether or not the solar cell efficiency record has implications for you, consider this: your personal efficiency level is irrelevant to the planet’s. While it may make you feel good to know that you’re currently tied with an efficiency rating of over 90%, what this means to the planet is basically nil.
The Solar Cell Efficiency
Your actual contribution to saving the planet from the ravages of greenhouse gases is the simple fact that you will be creating fewer emissions than you are putting out. Of course, all of this still begins with the simple act of laying down more solar cells. If every person around the world were to do this simple act, then the Earth would immediately begin to heal itself.
The fact of the matter is that the solar cell efficiency record is merely a marker for the advancement of science as we know it. There is no way to ascertain beforehand the day when all cells will be as efficient as they are right now. To be certain, the efficiency of the individual cells will continue to improve as the technology behind them matures. For now, however, it is safe to say that the present generation of solar cell efficiency is far from being an unparalleled success.
To a layperson, all of the facts regarding solar cell efficiency should simply seem to make no sense whatsoever. To a trained eye, however, it makes all of the sense in the world. If you take some time out to examine the record in a little more detail, you will see that it is not an accident. The advancements in technology that are happening right now are directly related to how humans are using the world around them today. With some effort, the future will hold the absolute cure for all of the problems that have plagued us for too long.