February 12, 2013
New World Record Efficiency For Thin Film Silicon Solar Cells
A 10.7 percent conversion rate has been achieved using less than 2 micrometers of raw material
The Photovoltaics-Laboratory (PV-Lab) of EPFL's Insitute of Microengineering (IMT), founded in 1984 by Prof. Arvind Shah and now headed by Prof. Christophe Ballif, is well known as a pioneer in the development of thin-film silicon solar cells, and as a precursor in the use of microcrystalline silicon as a photoactive material in thin-film silicon photovoltaic (TF-Si PV) devices. A remarkable step was achieved by the team led by Dr. Fanny Meillaud and Dr. Matthieu Despeisse with a new world record efficiency of 10.7% for a single-junction microcrystalline silicon solar cell, independently confirmed at Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE CalLab PV Cells) in Freiburg (Germany).
Thin-film silicon technology indeed offers the advantages of saving up on raw material and offering low energy payback time, thus allowing module production prices as low as 35 /m2, reaching the price level of standard roof tiles.
The reported progress is of paramount importance for increasing further TF-Si PV devices efficiency and potential, as at least one microcrystalline silicon junction is systematically used in combination with an amorphous silicon junction to form multiple junction devices for a broader use of the solar spectrum. The reported record efficiency clearly indicates that the potential of TF-Si multi-junction devices can be extended to > 13.5% conversion efficiency with a minimum usage of abundant and non-toxic raw material at low costs (TF-Si PV modules implementing in their simplest form two glasses and few microns of zinc and of silicon for an easy recycling).
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