Australian scientists have hit a new world record for squeezing power from cheap solar panels

The Duong from the ANU Research School of Engineering.age: ANU

Australian researchers scored a new world record for converting sunlight into energy using cheap solar cells.

The team led by The Duong from the ANU Research School of Engineering achieved 26% efficiency in converting sunlight into energy, which could help make low-cost semi-transparent perovskite solar cells a viable alternative to existing silicon panels.

Previous records have managed only 24% using just solar cells. Engineers have been able to get as high as 34.5% by adding a device which splits incoming rays into four bands to get more electricity from each beam of sunlight.

The latest researcher achieved 26% efficiency by mechanically combining perovskite with silicon solar cells. Perovskite is a material with a lattice-like structure that can help harvest light.

“Until now efficiencies of this kind have only been achieved using high cost materials normally used on satellites,” says Duong, a PhD student. “We are now a step closer to a low cost alternative.”

Silicon solar cell technology is about 90% of the solar market but scientists around the world are working to find a way to make them more efficient, affordable, stable and reliable.

The research is supported by $3.6 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The perovskite cells are not yet ready for use on rooftops, says professor Kylie Catchpole from the ANU Research School of Engineering.

The solar cell. Image: ANU

“This breakthrough opens the way to increasing the efficiency of silicon solar cells further, and in a cheap way,” says Catchpole.

“The key challenge for now is achieving the same stability as we have with silicon solar cells that can be put out on a roof for 20 years using perovskite.

“Over the next few years we are planning to increase efficiencies to 30 per cent and beyond.”

The research results are published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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