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Groups tout low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells

Posted: 25 May 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cell? photovoltaic? GaAs material?

Triple-junction solar cell
In a separate development, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg developed metamorphic triple-junction solar cell consisting of III-V compound semiconductors: gallium indium phosphide, gallium indium arsenide and germanium.

Researchers have been able to transform more sunlight into power than ever before, at a record degree of efficiency of 41.1 percent.

This efficiency is made possible by stacking multiple top-quality solar cells on top of each other. "Our triple solar cell consists of more than 20 individual layers, all of which we have optimized," said Frank Dimroth of Fraunhofer, in a statement.

"We have improved both the structure of the semiconductor as well as the material quality, the metal contacts and the antireflection coatings, in order to arrive at this result," he said.

Originally, these compound solar cells were engineered for use in space. Since the production process is comparatively expensive, these cells had not been used on earth before.

"The combination of highly efficient cells with a lens amplifier ensures thatin comparison to conventional solar modulesonly one five-hundredth of the semiconductor surface will be needed. The cells within their own specially designed concentrator modules measure only three square millimeters in size," according to the group.

"A Fresnel lens is situated over these mini solar cells, at a distance of approximately 10cm. This configuration concentrates the sunlight by a factor of 400 to 500. To prevent the cells from overheating, they are attached to a copper support that distributes the heat sufficiently well. Thus, passive cooling of the solar cells suffices," according to the group.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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