4-09-2013 High Efficiency Solar Panels, Most Efficient Solar Panels
High Efficiency Solar Panels
In recent years research in the solar industry has been focused on creating high efficiency solar panels. Right now, the standard solar module has a 17% efficiency rate at the high end, and roughly 15% or lower efficiency for other modules. The maximum efficiency for the most common solar panels is a theorized 33%. New high efficiency solar panels are on track to have an efficiency of over 60%.
Scientists have identified the causes of inefficiency in the conventional silicon based modules. Most solar energy is lost because it is reflected off the solar panels. More energy is lost in the form of heat, and solar cells become less efficient when overheated. High efficiency solar panels negate at least one of the aforementioned problems, making them a lot more efficient, and in some cases, cheaper.
There are three ways in which the efficiency has been increased; reducing the reflectivity of solar panels, increasing the number of wavelengths that can be transformed into electricity, and concentrating sunlight. These can be achieved by changing the materials used in solar cells, and how the solar cells are constructed. The most efficient solar panels are nanomesh solar cells, Andreas Bett’s solar cells, and (in the near future) quantum dot solar cells.
Nanomesh Solar Cells
The nanomesh solar cells created by a team at Princeton University is by far the most efficient solar cell, with an efficiency of about 96%. Led by Stephen Chou, the team has made two dramatic improvements: reducing reflectivity, and more effectively capturing the light that isn’t reflected. This is achieved by the holes in thin gold mesh on top of the solar cell being smaller than the wave lengths of light that it captures. Not only is it the most efficient, but it is also cheaper and smaller than traditional PV modules.
Andreas Bett’s Solar Cells
Andreas Bett created a solar cell that uses semi-conductors gallium-indium-phosphide, gallium-indium-arsenide and germanium instead of silicon. The cell is constructed in three layers, where the top layer absorbs the shortest, blue wavelengths, the middle absorbs green, and the bottom layer absorbs the red wavelengths, effectively gathering energy from the entire rainbow. This leads to an efficiency of over 41%, and is made affordable by being small and having an inexpensive lens that focuses the light over 500 times onto the surface of the solar cell.
Quantum Dot Solar Cells
As of now, quantum dot solar cells have an efficiency of only 7%, but researchers suggest that the cells will have an efficiency of about 65% in the future. What makes quantum dot solar cells interesting is the ability to change where in the light spectrum the cells collect from by changing the size of the quantum dots. Different materials can be used to manufacture the quantum dots, making costs about the same as conventional solar panels. Quantum dot solar cells are still in the pre-commercialization stage of development but should be available in the next few years.
High efficiency solar panels are going to be both very efficient and take less resources to make. The most efficient solar panels are not yet ready for mass production, but will be within the next couple of years. Solar energy is becoming more affordable and will make switching to clean energy more appealing.