Researchers at the University of Sydney have developed what they call a “turbo for solar cells” that could enable low-cost solar cells to reach 40% efficiency.
The ‘turbo’, called photochemical upconversion, allows energy that is normally lost in solar cells to be turned into electricity by harvesting the part of the solar spectrum that is currently unused by solar cells. Professor Tim Schmidt developed the upconversion technique with research partner Dr Klaus Lips from the Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy, with support from the Australian Solar Institute.
“We are able to boost efficiency by forcing two energy-poor red photons in the cell to join and make one energy-rich yellow photon that can capture light, which is then turned into electricity,” said Professor Schmidt.
Professor Schmidt said the upconversion technique eliminates the need for expensive redevelopment of solar cells.
“We now have a benchmark for the performance of an upconverting solar cell. We need to improve this several times, but the pathway is now clear,” Professor Schmidt said.
Mark Twidell, Executive Director of the Australian Solar Institute, said, “Together, Australia and Germany can accelerate the pace of commercialisation of solar technologies and drive down the cost of solar electricity.
“That’s why the Australian Solar Institute is supporting collaboration between the two countries through the Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar Research and Development Program.”
The research has been published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.