A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a new kind of solar cell which uses a phenomenon called “singlet exciton fission” to extract two electrons with the energy of a single photon hitting the semiconductor. Currently available silicon solar cells can only extract one electron, so this would give solar cells a 25 percent boost in efficiency.
Cambridge’s new solar cell has been named “hybrid,” and its creators say it’s able to achieve a 44 percent efficiency, 10 percent higher than what the most cutting edge technology can, 34 percent.
“We present the first hybrid solar cell that utilizes a phenomenon called singlet exciton fission to generate two electrons for each absorbed photon in the organic material,” Bruno Ehrler, lead author of the research, told Reuters.
Despite the fact that their working principle had been discovered in 1996, hybrid solar cells still haven’t found their way to the market because they have to be thoroughly tested before being commercialized.
Ehrler estimates that it’ll take another 2 or 3 years before their own version could eventually be licensed to Eight19, a firm that will produce and sell the cells.
“Since our materials can be dissolved and processed by roll-to-roll printing, we expect the actual cost of a solar panel be much lower than (with) conventional silicon solar cells,” he says.
Seeing last year’s solar cell price drop makes me optimistic about this technology and about all the investments toward it. Other hybrid technologies joining concentrated solar power with silicon solar cells have gained an even greater momentum than classic approaches lately.
This one shouldn’t be an exception to the rule, with the condition that it has to enter the market at the right time. One year too early or too late could make the technology fail.