Record high performance with new solar cells

Nov 03, 2008
Researchers are reporting record-high efficiency levels for a new generation of solar cells. Credit: National Renewable Energy Lab

Researchers in China and Switzerland are reporting the highest efficiency ever for a promising new genre of solar cells, which many scientists think offer the best hope for making the sun a mainstay source of energy in the future.

The photovoltaic cells, called dye-sensitized solar cells or Grätzel cells, could expand the use of solar energy for homes, businesses, and other practical applications, the scientists say. Their study is scheduled for the November 13 issue of ACS' The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

The research, conducted by Peng Wang and colleagues — who include Michael Grätzel, inventor of the first dye-sensitized solar cell — involves photovoltaic cells composed of titanium dioxide and powerful light-harvesting dyes. Grätzel cells are less expensive than standard silicon-based solar cells and can be made into flexible sheets or coatings. Although promising, Grätzel cells until now have had serious drawbacks. They have not been efficient enough at converting light into electricity. And their performance dropped after relatively short exposures to sunlight.

In the new study, researchers describe lab tests of solar cells made with a new type of ruthenium-based dye that helps boost the light-harvesting ability. The new cells showed efficiencies as high as 10 percent, a record for this type of solar cell. The new cells also showed greater stability at high temperatures than previous formulas, retaining more than 90 percent of their initial output after 1,000 hours in full sunlight.

Article: "New Efficiency Records for Stable Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells with Low-Volatility and Ionic Liquid Electrolytes" dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp808018h

Source: American Chemical Society

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User comments : 21

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Doug_Huffman
1.5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2008
A perfectly efficient solar collector cannot achieve 1350 Watts/meter^2
earls
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2008
"for this type of solar cell"

...

And they breakdown over time. Ho-hum. :/
hudres
2 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2008
8.5 to 10 % under 1.5 times solar lighting (found nowhere on this planet) is hardly worth reporting. There are cells with efficiencies of 23%.

A little fact checking next time please!
Duude
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2008
And just think, we have new cap and trade rules just around the corner. With the expected higher cost for fossil-generated electricity due to cap and trade, this will be looking better and better.
Duude
5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2008
Actually, there are solar cells that have even greater efficiency than 23%. The problem is that they are so costly that recapping the capital expenditure will take more than a decade in the sunbelt states. We just aren't where we need to be technologically before any capital investment is justified.
Velanarris
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 03, 2008
Actually, there are solar cells that have even greater efficiency than 23%. The problem is that they are so costly that recapping the capital expenditure will take more than a decade in the sunbelt states. We just aren't where we need to be technologically before any capital investment is justified.


They just changed the standards for efficiency.

The old 41% is now 23% according to another Physorg article. The efficiency statement is now based on usable capture as opposed to overall capture.
ShadowRam
1.3 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2008
I don't think Solar is the way to go.
There's only so much surface area on the planet, and we'll need as much as we can get for vegitation.

Roof's/walls of buildings are the only real good spots for solar energy.
Damon_Hastings
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 03, 2008
ShadowRam: the total energy consumption of all humankind comes out to about 0.0086% of the sunlight that hits Earth's surface (see http://en.wikiped...J#1012 ), so I would say that puts solar within shooting distance of satisfying all our needs. ;-) We just need to get efficiencies up and costs down.

Roof-mounted solar might be enough by itself -- a typical 1kW household could be powered by 5 to 10 square meters of 100% efficient panels depending on location -- but solar panels can also be put in deserts, along cleared power line routes or freeways, on arid mountaintops, maybe in the oceans or at the poles though it would be expensive -- and, eventually, in space. But, honestly, rooftops alone will probably be enough.
Damon_Hastings
1 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2008
That link was http://en.wikiped.../1_E14_J -- and search the page for "human" and "sun"
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2008
rheuthenium is expensive. Too expensive to use.
Velanarris
2.8 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2008
ShadowRam: the total energy consumption of all humankind comes out to about 0.0086% of the sunlight that hits Earth's surface (see http://en.wikiped...J#1012 ), so I would say that puts solar within shooting distance of satisfying all our needs. ;-) We just need to get efficiencies up and costs down.

Roof-mounted solar might be enough by itself -- a typical 1kW household could be powered by 5 to 10 square meters of 100% efficient panels depending on location -- but solar panels can also be put in deserts, along cleared power line routes or freeways, on arid mountaintops, maybe in the oceans or at the poles though it would be expensive -- and, eventually, in space. But, honestly, rooftops alone will probably be enough.


You realize that 100% efficiency is impossible when talking about electricity.

Hell, right now 60% is a stretch.
jeffsaunders
1 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2008
next we will get some report that a new solar panel substance has been developed which achieves an unheard of 5% efficiency. Then a few years later a new product will be used with an unbelievable 3% efficiency, then after that a new type of solar panel will be developed that achieves an incredible 1% efficiency.

I don't want to be a cynic but it just seems we are heading backwards.

And yes, if someone comes up with a solar cell collector that I can spray on my roof that achieves 10% efficiency, then I will consider it, unless, it degrades to 1% efficiency after 12 months.
Paradox
1 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2008


You realize that 100% efficiency is impossible when talking about electricity.

Hell, right now 60% is a stretch.


100% may be impossible, but 95% is not. Costs will eventually come down and efficiency will go up. That is how it is with all new technologies.(except combustion engines of course) :P

Ant
1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2008
Hi Damon_H
where do you get a 1KW houshold from unless you live in a tent?
Velanarris
1 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2008


You realize that 100% efficiency is impossible when talking about electricity.

Hell, right now 60% is a stretch.


100% may be impossible, but 95% is not. Costs will eventually come down and efficiency will go up. That is how it is with all new technologies.(except combustion engines of course) :P



Name one technology or system that is over 60% efficiency in regard to energy collection and transmission.

(We'll skip the storage part right now as that'd make me have to lower the percent to 40 just to be fair.)
Damon_Hastings
1 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2008
Velanarris: even at 60% efficiency, you still only need less than 20 square meters of solar panels per house. Right now that would cost a fortune, but wait a decade or two.

Ant: 1kW is about the average figure I saw on the web for typical household energy consumption. Search for "typical household energy consumption kw". Don't forget this average includes nighttime. Larger houses will consume more power -- but will also have more room for more solar panels. ;-)
Velanarris
1 / 5 (3) Nov 08, 2008
Velanarris: even at 60% efficiency, you still only need less than 20 square meters of solar panels per house. Right now that would cost a fortune, but wait a decade or two.

Ant: 1kW is about the average figure I saw on the web for typical household energy consumption. Search for "typical household energy consumption kw". Don't forget this average includes nighttime. Larger houses will consume more power -- but will also have more room for more solar panels. ;-)


The average home consumes 920 kWh per month. Not 1 kW. Your figures are wayyyy off. That and how many homes don't have 20 m^2 of surface area with access to direct sunlight?

It is not efficient enough, it's too expensive, and you can't store it. The technology has a long long way to go before it's feasable to remove a home from the current grid.
barakn
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 08, 2008

The average home consumes 920 kWh per month. Not 1 kW. Your figures are wayyyy off. That and how many homes don't have 20 m^2 of surface area with access to direct sunlight?

Velanarris, you apparently don't know the difference between between power and energy. One thing that should have clued you in is that Damon Hastings did not quote you a period of time, not to mention the units he used. To compare your number with his, you'd have to take 1 kW and multiply it by the number of hours in a month, which is about 730.5. This results in a monthly usage of 730.5 kWh, which is quite close to the 920 kWh you quoted. So no, the numbers are not "wayyyy off." Please get a clue.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2008
none
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2008

The average home consumes 920 kWh per month. Not 1 kW. Your figures are wayyyy off. That and how many homes don't have 20 m^2 of surface area with access to direct sunlight?

Velanarris, you apparently don't know the difference between between power and energy. One thing that should have clued you in is that Damon Hastings did not quote you a period of time, not to mention the units he used. To compare your number with his, you'd have to take 1 kW and multiply it by the number of hours in a month, which is about 730.5. This results in a monthly usage of 730.5 kWh, which is quite close to the 920 kWh you quoted. So no, the numbers are not "wayyyy off." Please get a clue.


Actually I'm quite comfortable with it, which would be exactly why I'm questioning the use of a figure of energy when talking about electrical power. Sometimes the argument isn't as complex as you desire.

lengould100
not rated yet Aug 24, 2009
Velanarris: You're flat wrong. The 720 to 930 kwh / month figure is very commonly used and useful.

I'd also note that the solar dish stirling units NOW BEING INSTALLED in western US already provide 30% net efficiency (and at very reasonable costs).