World record solar cell is back in Germany
The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has set a new world record in thin-film photovoltaics. Scientists in Stuttgart achieved 21.7 percent efficiency with a solar cell made of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS).
ZSW succeeded in bringing the record back to the institute with this cell's performance. Swedish researchers achieved a new best mark in June, which has now been surpassed by 0.7 percentage points.
This record-setting performance in Stuttgart extends the CIGS cell's lead over multicrystalline solar cells, which still dominate the market, to 1.3 percent. These advances once again confirm the tremendous technological potential of CIGS thin-film photovoltaics. The lab data show that further efficiency improvements will be possible in the years ahead. This could drive down the cost of CIGS technology even more sharply.
The record-setting cell has an area of 0.5 cm², a standard size for such tests. It was manufactured in a laboratory coating plant by way of a coevaporation process that is highly reproducible in the lab: The scientists made more than 40 cells with efficiency ratings topping the 21-percent mark. This would indicate that the method lends itself to industrial manufacturing and could be readily scaled up to mass production. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE confirmed the results.
A contest to up efficiency
Solar cell efficiency is one of the most powerful drivers in reducing the cost of solar energy. The rating indicates how much of the sun's incident light is converted into electrical energy. It will probably take some time for this efficiency increase to make its way into module manufacturing, but 17 to 19 percent is very much possible in the next few years."The CIGS modules currently available on the market are rated for around 15 percent efficiency. Modules' physical area is larger so they are less efficient than solar cells.
The latest results from Stuttgart improve the chances of CIGS thin-film technology gaining a much larger market share. The idea is to make CIGS solar systems economical and affordable practically anywhere in the world. Thin-film cells' coating is measured in micrometers, so they consume far less material and energy in the making than standard solar cells and are sure to have a major impact on cutting future production costs.