An international research team has simplified the steps to create highly efficient silicon solar cells by applying a new mix of materials to a standard design. Arrays of solar cells are used in solar panels to convert sunlight to electricity.
The improved blend of materials eliminates the need for a process known as doping that steers the device’s properties by introducing foreign atoms to its electrical contacts. This doping process adds complexity to the device and can degrade its performance.
“The solar cell industry is driven by the need to reduce costs and increase performance,” said lead author of the study, James Bullock.
“If you look at the architecture of the solar cell we made, it is very simple,” said Bullock, of Australian National University. “That simplicity can translate to reduced cost.”
The team’s best solar cell so far has achieved nearly 20 per cent efficiency, which is better than the industry average and is close to the world record of 25 per cent.
The new design promises a lower energy footprint for solar cells, because they are manufactured below 200 degrees Celsius, in contrast to conventional doped cells which are made at above 800 degrees Celsius.
This study is a result of a new understanding of the physics of solar cells and will inform future studies.
“All those wonderful materials were sitting there, some of them already in our lab cabinets, but we had not realised how useful they can be,” concluded co-author, Professor Cuevas.
Read more: Australian National University.