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Aussie researchers set 40% PV efficiency world record


December 10, 2014
By Anthony Capkun


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December 9, 2014 – Solar researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia say they have achieved the highest efficiency ever reported, converting over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity.

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” said Martin Green, UNSW Scientia professor and director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP).

This efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at its outdoor test facility in the United States, say researchers.

“We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry,” added Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist who managed the project.

The results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are relevant to PV power towers being developed in Australia, added Green.

Power towers are being developed by Australian company, RayGen Resources, which provided design and technical support for the high-efficiency prototype. Another partner in the research was Spectrolab, a U.S.–based company that provided some of the cells used in the project.

A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves could. Such filters reflect particular wavelengths of light while transmitting others.

The achievement is outlined in a paper expected to be published soon by the Progress in Photovoltaics journal. The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and supported by the Australia–U.S. Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV).