Solar Cell Celebration or Confusion?

The following story, that readers of this blog may have read a couple of months ago, celebrated the discovery of a solar cell production method that generated a whopping 43% ROI of the sun’s input. However, the link at the bottom of this entry written two months after the momentous event below states that the effective rate of electrical conversion still resides near 5%. My question is does the August event matter or are we celebrating the wrong number?

Australian Scientists Develop World’s Most Efficient Solar Cell
by Ariel Schwartz, 08/25/09

The race for the world’s most efficient solar power cell is forever played out in fractions of percentages. The latest victory comes from scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia, who have concocted a multi-cell combination that converts 43% of sunlight into electricity, besting the previous record of 42.7%!

So how did the team break the record? By using a special silicon cell optimized to harness light at the red and near-infrared end of the light spectrum. When the silicon cell was combined with four other cells made from gallium, indium, phosphorous and arsenic, the scientists were able to reach the magic 43% mark.

The same UNSW scientific team has had success before — last year, they broke the record for the world’s most efficient silicon solar cell, achieving 25% efficiency. But the newest record uses a combination of cells that can reach a greater efficiency than any single solar cell.

There are still some kinks to work out before the UNSW multi-cell combo is ready for everyday use. The cells have only been tested under lab conditions, and the non-silicon cells are still too expensive for most potential uses. Still, the record-breaking discovery bodes well for our solar-powered future.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.