In 2011 new solar cell technologies from Solar Junction, a company based in San Jose, California, stored a record 43.5 per cent of the energy it captured from the sun.
The cells are 1.2 per cent more efficient than anything on record, and up to three times as efficient as the off-the-shelf variety.
Solar Junction’s record-breaking technology was originally developed by Dr. Homan Yuen and his fellow graduate students while they were students at Stanford University in 2007.
The team found a way to stack and arrange a compound called InGaAsNSb using a process borrowed from cell phone and LED lighting industries. The process allows thin layers of the compound to be deposited so that there’s little mixing between the layers, resulting in minimal contamination of the materials.
Photo: Solar Junction
The diagram at right shows the difference that this process makes when used as a part of Solar Junction’s technology, compared to the results that others in the field have gotten when they’ve tried similar methods but failed. The layers in Solar Junction’s solar cells are clearly defined, not mixed like in a competing cell.Right now the company is still too early in its development for a full commercial roll-out to be cost-effective.
But Jeff Allen, Solar Junction’s Vice President of Business Development, says they could be powering cities across the nation within a few years, thanks to the cost curve of concentrated solar. Solar Junction may be more expensive upfront, but it makes up the costs with how much power it can store.
“You’re going to see [concentrated photovoltaic] markets in the southwest U.S. — it’s already active in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada,” he said. “Japan is also pursuing solar energy companies to help replace their nuclear energy sector. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
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