Researchers convert sunlight to electricity with 40% efficiency – highest rate ever recorded

Study confirmed in outdoor tests and verified by outside party

Solar researchers in Australia have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting their solar system into electricity — the highest rate of efficiency ever recorded.

Solar energy worker

The record was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, Australia and was conducted by University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia’s solar researchers. The system was then independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at their outdoor test facility in the United States.

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

“We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry,” added Dr. Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist who managed the project.

The 40% efficiency benchmark is just another feather in the cap for UNSW researchers, who have a long line of achievements over the last 40 years, including the development of the world’s first photovoltaic system to convert sunlight into electricity with 20% efficiency, achieved way back in 1989.

“The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia,” Professor Green said.

A key part of the prototype’s design is a custom optical bandpass filter, which is used to capture sunlight that otherwise goes to waste, and convert it into electricity; and it does this with much greater efficiency than solar cells ever could.

“Ultimately, more efficient commercial solar plants will make renewable energy cheaper, increasing its competitiveness,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht commented.

The group’s achievement will be outlined in a paper to be published soon by the Progress in Photovoltaics journal. It will also be presented at the Australian PV Institute’s Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference, which begins at UNSW this month.

Via the University of New South Whales

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