Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab has announced that a solar cell it manufactured has set a world record for efficiency.
The cell is said to convert 41.6 per cent of concentrated sunlight into electricity.
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado independently tested the efficiency of the Spectrolab cell in June, validating that it surpassed the previous record of 41.1 per cent held by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.
High-efficiency solar cells in concentrator systems require fewer cells to produce the same electrical output as conventional solar cells. They enable energy producers to generate more electrical power from typical industrial solar panels. The results can be passed on as lower costs to homeowners, businesses and other end users.
David Lillington, president of Spectrolab, said that the latest development from his company brings the industry one step closer to achieving affordable solar electricity.
The cell, which was produced in February 2008, is an advanced version of the lattice-matched triple-junction technology that Spectrolab currently produces in high volumes for space and terrestrial applications.
Spectrolab claims that the new cell incorporates multiple improvements in wafer processing to reduce metal grid shadowing and series resistance, raising the cell’s overall efficiency for the conversion of sunlight to electricity.
Lillington said that the company plans to incorporate the cell into its production line soon.
‘Over the past decade, Spectrolab’s efforts developing terrestrial solar cell efficiency have achieved an average improvement of approximately one percentage point per year and we expect to continue that pace,’ he said.
Spectrolab has been producing products for powering satellites since 1958. Currently, its cells power 60 per cent of all satellites orbiting the Earth, as well as the International Space Station.
The company has recently been making large investments in terrestrial concentrator photovoltaic technology. It hopes that these investments will result in an annual capacity of 300MW by 2010.