Semprius, a startup company based in Durham, North Carolina, has announced it’s new concentrated solar panel achieves 33.9% efficiency.Semprius’s solar cells use gallium arsenide, rather than silicon, which is able to absorb sunlight and dissipate heat far better. The solar panel that scored this major efficiency record is made up of hundreds of these tiny cells that are about the width of a pen-drawn line. Lenses atop the cells concentrate sunlight 1,000 times.
Gallium arsenide is far better at absorbing sunlight than silicon, the material used in most solar cells, but it’s also more expensive. Furthermore, although concentrated solar modules use less semiconducting material, they usually require expensive optics, cooling systems, and tracking systems to keep them aimed at the sun. Semprius’s microscaled solar cells are inherently much better at dissipating heat, making them cheaper.
Tests by a third-party certified the efficiency of Semprius’s solar panel at 33.9 percent, marking the first time any solar module has been able to convert more than one-third of the sunlight that falls on it into electricity. Conventional silicon solar panels typically convert less than 15 percent of light into electricity, and the record for a silicon solar panel is 22.9 percent. The previous record for any solar panel was 32 percent, Semprius says.
The use of concentrated solar cells up to this point have been costly to produce and fickle in application. Tracking systems are required by concentrated solar cells to be efficient enough to justify their production, and as the cost of the tracking system comes down, this technology may have a place in the market.
Source: Technology Review by MIT