World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly announced this week having achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum’s energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.

Back in May 2013, the German-French team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. Building on this result, further intensive research work and optimization steps led to the present efficiency of 44.7%.

These solar cells are used in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum.

“We are incredibly proud of our team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar cell,” says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. “This four-junction solar cell contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other with high crystal quality. In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells.”

“This world record increasing our efficiency level by more than 1 point in less than 4 months demonstrates the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design which relies on Soitec bonding techniques and expertise,” says André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec’s Chairman and CEO. “It confirms the acceleration of the roadmap towards higher efficiencies which represents a key contributor to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration.”

“This new record value reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE. We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing,” said Leti CEO Laurent Malier.

Concentrator modules are produced by Soitec (started in 2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE). This particularly efficient technology is employed in solar power plants located in sun-rich regions with a high percentage of direct radiation. Presently Soitec has CPV installations in 18 different countries including Italy, France, South Africa and California.

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9 thoughts on “World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency

  1. Jay

    Very nice result. But the progress is not that amazing. As the article points out, this stacked cell approach is based on space solar cells. Boeing had a 37% cell with only 2 stacked cells back in 1989 ! So an 8% gain in 24 years with double the complexity.

    Reply
  2. don

    That is impressive.

    Soitec did not start “in 2005″ or as otherwise cited here – just this recent CPV acquisition.

    Now, critically, it seems the market needs to see if Soitec’s smart-cut process can make a $5 chip, and if it can make a much more robust chip than is demonstrated at the present 297 suns, say at 500+ suns, and at higher temperature cycling, at 0 – 100 Celsius.

    Reply
  3. Anil Kumar

    It is a very significant jump in efficiency of III-V multiple-junction solar cells.
    Cost reduction of solar power is a challenge for its widespread use. Will these III-V multiple-junction solar cells produce power at rate cheaper than now dominating monocrystalline silicon PV technology?
    Thanks.
    A. Kumar

    Reply
  4. Dr. M. S. Zabihi

    I am so happy to hear this very good news. but there is some question on expenses of using such technique to create multifunction, using of III-V material, lifetime of such cell in a concentration construction and finally cost of electricity produced by using this technique.

    Reply
  5. Abdelhalim Zekry

    This is an appreciable achievement. We wait from you more technological innovations towards higher efficiency solar cells. But what about the supply of the three five compounds? My congratulation for achieving the new world record of the solar cell efficiency.

    Reply
  6. Lu Wei

    The efficiency record is always fascinating. Yet what matters in practice is cost, which is hard to standardize and form a world record competition. For silicon module it is about 0.7$/Wp — How much does CPV have to pursue?

    Reply
  7. Mike Clayton

    Back in the 1960′s when Westinghouse made some silicon web solar cells for satellites, we tried to make dual-bandgap solar cells out of GaAs on Ge and Si for example. But the satellites were the only market for solar cells for a while, and then as calculator energy sources. And silicon costs were still high since military markets dominated and kept Westinghouse from ever getting really efficient in making IC’s or Solar Cells. ( They even thought IC’s were too expensive to ever be used in computers, so no-bid a huge IBM request for quote.) The silicon web cells were pulled from molten silicon hanging between two dendrites, about 3/8 inch wide and many feet long (could even be spooled up). The single crystal nature was what made them exciting vs polysilicon sheets. They evolved during the 70′s and 80′s to some extent, but never made mainstream.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002202487790152X is Westinghouse web for solar cell paper, still costly for some reason. This one is free: http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/3.23104?journalCode=jpp

    Reply

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