UCLA develops highly efficient solar cell

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Dual-layer solar cell developed at UCLA sets record. PIX/ UCLA Samueli Engineering

Materials scientists from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have developed a highly efficient thin-film solar cell that generates more energy from sunlight than typical solar panels, thanks to its double-layer design.

The device is made by spraying a thin layer of perovskite — an inexpensive compound of lead and iodine that has been shown to be very efficient at capturing energy from sunlight — onto a commercially available solar cell. The solar cell that forms the bottom layer of the device is made of a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenide, or CIGS.

The team’s new cell converts 22.4 percent of the incoming energy from the sun, a record in power conversion efficiency for a perovskite-CIGS tandem solar cell. The performance was confirmed in independent tests at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (The previous record, set in 2015 by a group at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, was 10.9 percent.) The UCLA device’s efficiency rate is similar to that of the poly-silicon solar cells that currently dominate the photovoltaics market.

The research was published recently in Science.