Much effort is being put toward improving solar energy capture efficiency. As we have seen, there are many ways to go about accomplishing that task. Konarka set some efficiency records with their organic photovoltaics late last year, electronics manufacturer Sharp indicates it is doing wonders for solar efficiency, and SunPower says it is developing solar panels with record breaking efficiency levels, too. While they all work with different solar cell types and different methods for efficiency improvement, the unifying goal is intended to reduce costs so that solar power generation is more affordable and more competitive with fossil fuels.
Now researchers at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, are claiming their solar cells made of copper indium gallium (di)selenide (also known as CIGS) is a new record holder in terms of efficiency. Apparently scientists at Empa have improved upon their previous record of 17.6% which was attained in June of 2010 to 18.7%- a jump that the scientists indicate is a big move forward.
The major benefit of the CIGS solar cells, according to the statement, is the potential to reduce manufacturing and transportation costs. The cells can apparently be made using “roll-to-roll” processing and, because the material is so light, it is less expensive to transport and install.
Is this the Holy Grail of solar cells that the world has been waiting for? Perhaps not, but it appears to be another step in the right direction.