The latest study shows that by making use of a carefully controlled fabrication process, researchers can construct solar panels with multiple layers, which are likely to be 1.5 times more efficient than conventional silicon panels as they eke more energy from sunlight.
‘Cell Reports Physical Sciences’, a published journal contains the results of the study led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign engineer Minjoo Larry Lee.
“Silicon solar panels are prevalent because they are affordable and can convert a little over 20% of the sun’s light into usable electricity,” said Lee. “However, just like silicon computer chips, silicon solar cells are reaching the limit of their abilities, so finding a way to increase efficiency is attractive to energy providers and consumers.”
The study aims to generate less waste heat as an alloy of gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide absorb visible light strongly. “It is like a sports team. You are going to have some fast people, some who are strong and some with great defensive skills,” engineer Lee said. “In a similar way, tandem solar cells work as a team and take advantage of the best properties of both materials to make a single, more efficient device.”
Making panels comprised entirely of gallium arsenide phosphide and other semiconductors is well planned but it is also costly in terms of mass production. Hence, Lee’s team uses low-cost silicon as an initiative for this research.
As the results of the study become more valid, utility companies can use this technology to get 1.5 times more energy out of the same investment. A consumer can also use 1.5 times less space for rooftop panels.
Hurdles in the path of commercialization still remain but Lee is positive that energy providers and consumers will see the value in using substantial materials to achieve a boost in performance.