WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- Solar power is now coming of age and every innovation, and every breakthrough only helps to accelerate its adoption
Turning sunlight, which is basically photons, into electricity, electrons, is a surprisingly tricky thing. While there have been experiments that have created solar arrays that can capture up to 40 percent of the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity, as well as solar panels that produce energy from rain, consumer solar panels are often significantly less efficient than their more specialised, and more expensive cousins.
According to experts even the best silicon based solar power technology, which is the mainstay of the consumer industry, should have a theoretical limit of 29 percent efficiency, which means that any consumer panel that can hit the low twenties is doing pretty well.
Nevertheless, we’re inching ever closer to that theoretical limit, and now, researchers at Kaneko Corporation have announced that they’ve developed a silicon solar cell with a record breaking 26.3 percent efficiency rating.
The score is only just barely higher than the previous record of 25.6, but that 0.7 percent gain was no easy feat. The researchers had to analyse the limitations of today’s solar cell designs and find new ways to overcome them. In the end the researchers decided that reducing the amount of optical loss was the best path forward so moved the lower resistance electrodes to the back of the solar cell in order to increase the amount of photons it could capture.
Ultimately, as this, and other improvements find their way into new products we’ll see the cost of solar power, which is already the cheapest form of energy in 58 countries, fall even further. All of which will help to boost adoption, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Matthew Griffin Global Futurist, Tech Evangelist, X Prize Mentor ● Int'l Keynote Speaker ● Disruption, Futures and Innovation expert
Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank, is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew mentors several XPrize teams, and is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who is regularly featured on the BBC, Discovery, Kurzweil, Newsweek, TechCrunch and VentureBeat. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew shines a light on the future and helps them transform their industries, organisations, products and services by demonstrating how the combination of democratised, and increasingly powerful emerging technologies, are helping fuel cultural, industrial and societal change that is transforming old industries and creating new ones. Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.