This seems like a week full of a lot of good solar efficiency news. As I’ve written many, many times (hit the solar link in the sidebar), solar power needs continued breakthroughs in two areas to become market-viable — costs must continue to come down and efficiency needs to continue to increase. This news out of UT Austin points toward potential very dramatic efficiency increases.
From the link:
Conventional solar cell efficiency could be increased from the current limit of 30 percent to more than 60 percent, suggests new research on semiconductor nanocrystals, or quantum dots, led by chemist Xiaoyang Zhu at The University of Texas at Austin.
Zhu and his colleagues report their results in this week’s Science.
The scientists have discovered a method to capture the higher energy sunlight that is lost as heat in conventional solar cells.
The maximum efficiency of the silicon solar cell in use today is about 31 percent. That’s because much of the energy from sunlight hitting a solar cell is too high to be turned into usable electricity. That energy, in the form of so-called “hot electrons,” is lost as heat.
If the higher energy sunlight, or more specifically the hot electrons, could be captured, solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency could be increased theoretically to as high as 66 percent.
If you prefer the raw feed, here’s the release the linked story is based on.