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40% efficiency from solar!??!?

Science Daily:

SW Australia's solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.

The record efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at their outdoor test facility in the United States.

"This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity," UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

"We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry," added Dr Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist who managed the project.

The 40% efficiency milestone is the latest in a long line of achievements by UNSW solar researchers spanning four decades. These include the first photovoltaic system to convert sunlight to electricity with over 20% efficiency in 1989, with the new result doubling this performance.

Maybe it's a good thing fixing the roof has been last on my list. I've got acreage up there, and maybe I could be getting more out of it than a hot water heater.

A key part of the prototype's design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.

Hmm. They lost me.

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quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

This particular one is apparently intended for those stupid massive solar farms that ruin desert. For some reason not clear to me, it's not suitable for rooftops.

However, a few months ago (wish I could find the link) I think it was Stanford announced a new solar cell with these kinds of efficiencies and more. And that one could be used not just on roofs, but also walls and even windows. It's transparent at visible light wavelengths, if I remember right.

The bandpass stuff refers to the fact that the high efficiency cells trap more than one wavelength of light. If, for instance, they trap UV and infrared as well as some of the visible, the total energy taken goes way up.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

Why wouldn't solar hot water heaters in the desert (say) not give a greater rate of return than solar cells? You can heat water to boiling in no time with them and then turn steam turbines much more efficiently. In a closed system you wouldn't even need a constant water supply. Seems much more environmentally sustainable and comparatively low tech, so none of the pollution problems experienced from the manufacture of solar cells.

Have you heard anything about that?