Another Day, Another Great Aussie Solar Breakthrough!

Australian scientists and inventors have long been known for their innovation when it comes to developing products that benefit people. Well, this new initiative is no different. Engineers from the University of New South Wales have set a new World record in solar efficiency by probing the theoretical possibilities of sunlight-to-electricity conversion by photo-voltaic cells.

Their device – a solar cell configuration that has not been used before – has been found to possess a sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency of 34.5%. This is a World record efficiency rating for unfocused sunlight! It is also one step closer to the limits that can theoretically be achieved with such a device.

The clever engineers behind this breakthrough are Senior Research Fellow, Dr Mark Keevers and Director, Professor Martin Green, of the university’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics. Their device – consisting of a prism with a 28-cm2 four-junction mini-module embedded within it – has been shown to pull the maximum energy so far possible from sunlight. It works by using a hybrid four-junction receiver to convert sun rays into electricity as it passes through, after being split into four light bands. This method blows the last record – which was 24% and held by US company, Alta Devices – out of the running by a long shot

The team behind this huge leap for solar aren’t new to record setting though – they also gained one in 2014 by using mirrors to achieve an electricity conversion of over 40%. Yes, this rate is higher than the above mentioned new record, but the difference is that the new record was made without using mirrors to concentrate the light.

So why is this record important, you may be asking? Well, the extraction of energy from all of the light that hits your solar cells is not yet possible, so any advancement on how much light can be converted into electricity is something that has the potential to boost solar into the forefront, reducing setup costs, increasing the amount of energy created per panel and basically saving you – the consumer – a whole load of money!

What’s also remarkable is that this level of efficiency wasn’t expected to be achieved this early on in solar cell development, so this design has really set the solar science and development world abuzz. This will create a new wave of solar innovation because not only will other designers be attempting to break a new record, but it also shows that great things can be achieved much quicker than thought possible. The fact that it has happened in Australia is definitely a boon and we can’t wait to see the next great developments in solar from our greatest minds!

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