The first silicon solar cell to exceed 26% efficiency for converting sunlight into electricity is described in a paper published online this week in Nature Energy. The cell achieves a certified conversion efficiency of 26.3%, showing that silicon solar cells are more efficient than ever and suggesting that more efficient silicon solar panels are on the way.
It is estimated that photovoltaic electricity will account for more than 20% of global primary energy demands by 2050. However, improving how efficient silicon solar cells are at converting light to electricity (photoconversion efficiency) is a crucial step to further their deployment.
Kunta Yoshikawa and colleagues use industrially compatible processes to fabricate monocrystalline silicon solar cells with a design that simultaneously increases the collection of sunlight and its conversion to electrical current. They are able to improve the photoconversion efficiency by 2.7% relative to the previous record (25.6%). Finally, the authors propose a path to approaching the theoretical conversion efficiency limit of silicon solar cells: 29.1%.
Although the study represents a record-breaking efficiency for a silicon solar cell, further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel.