European researchers have claimed a new efficiency record for solar cells.
Scientists at the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute developed a technique of adding an ultra-thin aluminium oxide layer at the front of a crystalline silicon solar cell.
This layer has an unprecedented level of built-in negative charges, through which the normally significant energy losses at the surface are almost entirely eliminated.
Just over 23 per cent of all sunlight falling on these cells is now converted into electrical energy.
This was formerly 21.9 per cent, which means a six per cent improvement in relative terms. The researchers claim an improvement of more than one per cent in absolute terms.
Although this may appear modest, it can enable solar cell manufacturers to " greatly increase" the performance of their products because the costs of applying the thin layer of aluminium oxide are expected to be relatively low.
This in turn will mean a significant reduction in the cost of producing solar electricity.
The ultra-thin aluminium oxide layer may lead to a major technology innovation in the solar cell world. A number of solar cell manufacturers have already shown interest, according to the scientists.
"Within 10 to 15 years the price of electricity generated by solar cells is expected to be comparable to that of 'conventional' electricity from fossil fuels," the researchers stated.
"This technology breakthrough now brings the industrial application of this type of high-efficiency solar cell closer."
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