Australian Solar Energy Researchers Have Found A Way To Get 40% Efficiency For Converting Sunlight Into Electricity


Australian researchers have worked out a way to convert more than 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.

The 40% mark was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at its outdoor test facility in the United States.

The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and supported by the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics.

Some laboratory tests have seen a solar cell convert 46% of solar light into electrical energy but this Australian breakthrough works at a commercial level in the field under normal conditions.

The Australian 40% efficiency milestone is the latest in a line of achievements by University of NSW solar researchers spanning four decades. These include the first photovoltaic system to convert sunlight to electricity with over 20% efficiency in 1989, with the new result doubling this performance.

“The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia,” says Martin Green, UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.

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 US-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 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 ever could.

Such filters reflect particular wavelengths of light while transmitting others.

Ivor Frischknecht, CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, say this is another world first for Australian research and development and further demonstrates the value of investing in Australia’s renewable energy ingenuity.

“We hope to see this home grown innovation take the next steps from prototyping to pilot scale demonstrations,” he says. “Ultimately, more efficient commercial solar plants will make renewable energy cheaper, increasing its competitiveness.”

The 40% efficiency achievement will be presented at the Australian PV Institute’s Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference, which begins at UNSW today.

Known as the father of photovoltaic, Martin Green is the author of six books on solar cells and numerous papers in the area of semiconductors, microelectronics,