Thursday, 12 March 2020 10:48

ANU pair develop better solar cell for converting sunlight to energy

By
Dr Kylie Catchpole and Dr The Duong. Dr Kylie Catchpole and Dr The Duong. Stuart Hay, ANU

Two researchers at the Australian National University have developed a new kind of solar cell that has a better efficiency record in converting sunlight into energy.

Professor Kylie Catchpole and Dr The Duong developed what are called tandem solar cells by stacking a perovskite solar cell on top of a silicon cell.

The former is a new type of solar cell that uses both organic and inorganic materials in a custom-built structure to improve the absorption of light.

It can react to different wavelengths of light and harness the sun's energy much better than silicon cells which are made from inorganic materals and are limited to absorbing red light.

Prof Catchpole and Dr Duong achieved an efficiency record of 27.7% using both cells together, meaning that this amount of sunlight was converted into energy. An improvement to 30% would mean the technology could be used globally.

"In comparison, typical solar panels being installed on rooftops at the moment have an efficiency of about 20%," Prof Catchpole said.

She pointed out that while silicon solar cells dominated the market, their efficiency would reach a limit in the next five to 10 years.

"This result demonstrates the potential of tandem solar cells. They can make better use of certain parts of the solar spectrum - for example high energy blue photons," Prof Catchpole said.

"This will lead to more efficient and more cost-effective solar cells and solar energy sources."

Dr Duong said: "The International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics predicts tandem solar cells will appear in mass production in 2023, so we're very close.

"This new efficiency result will help to improve the commercial competitiveness of this technology.

"It's exciting to think that a new technology that has the potential to benefit the entire planet is being developed here in Canberra."

The research was supported by ARENA through the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics and published in Advanced Energy Materials.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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