scientists at the national renewable energy laboratory (NREL) have created a six-junction solar cell with an efficiency of nearly 50%, marking the world record for the highest solar conversion efficiency at 47.1%. a variation of the same cell also set the efficiency record under one-sun illumination at 39.2%. ‘this device really demonstrates the extraordinary potential of multijunction solar cells,’ comments john geisz, principal scientist in the high-efficiency crystalline photovoltaic group at NREL and lead author of a new paper on the record-setting cell. the device was constructed by NREL researchers with III-V materials which have a wide range of light absorption properties. each of the cell’s six junctions — the photoactive layers — has been specially designed to capture light from a specific part of the solar spectrum. the device contains about 140 total layers of various III-V materials to support the performance of these junctions, and yet is three times narrower than a human hair. due to their highly efficient nature and the cost associated with making them, III-V solar cells are most often used to power satellites. ‘one way to reduce cost is to reduce the required area,’ geisz continues. ‘and you can do that by using […]

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