Solar development partnership aims for 29% efficiency

Monday, 28 October, 2013

An Australian-American partnership of solar engineers is ramping up the efficiency of solar cells with a project to develop next-generation solar cells with targeted efficiencies of 29%.

The current world record for conversion efficiency for solar cells is 25% and was set by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) solar photovoltaic research group in 2008 with its PERL cell.

This week, Arizona State University (ASU) was awarded US$3.5 million from the US government’s SunShot Initiative, which aims to make solar PV energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by 2020.

UNSW was listed as a collaborator on the grant, along with MIT, Caltech and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“These are the some of the most cutting-edge solar cell and physics groups in the United States and Europe and we’re delighted to be working with them,” said Dr Richard Corkish, head of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.

“We will be sharing physical resources and ideas, and I’m hoping we can collectively come up with something much bigger than each of our research groups could achieve on our own.”

The project will focus on demonstrating new device structures for ultrathin silicon solar cells that can approach the theoretical limit for solar power conversion with silicon cells.

The project leader at ASU is Professor Stuart Bowden, who was previously a PhD student at UNSW and played a large role in developing the university’s solar education and research programs.

Another former UNSW academic at ASU, Professor Christiana Honsberg, is a project investigator.

UNSW’s involvement will be led by Dr Anita Ho-Baillie and will be coordinated through the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAP), which is led by UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green.

The institute includes UNSW, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne, Monash University and CSIRO. It was established with AU$33 million from the Commonwealth through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

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