Record-breaking solar panel converts more than a quarter of sunlight into electricity

Leaves can convert as little as three per cent of sunlight into energy

Ian Johnston
Science Correspondent
Tuesday 21 March 2017 13:08
Early morning sunlight warms sheep as they graze in a field
Early morning sunlight warms sheep as they graze in a field

A record-breaking solar panel that can convert more than a quarter of the sunlight it receives into electricity has been developed by researchers in Japan.

The silicon solar cell is so efficient that it turns 26.3 per cent of the energy from the sun into renewable power.

In contrast, nature’s ‘solar panels’ – leaves – have a “photosynthetic efficiency” of between three and six per cent.

The scientists behind the new panel also said they believed they had found a way to create a one with the maximum level of efficiency considered to be theoretically possible – 29.1 per cent.

Writing in the journal Nature Energy, the team from the Kaneka Corporation in Osaka, said: “Improving the photo-conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells is crucial to further the deployment of renewable electricity.

“Essential device properties such as lifetime, series resistance and optical properties must be improved simultaneously to reduce recombination, resistive and optical losses.

“Here, we use industrially compatible processes to fabricate large-area silicon solar cells … the photo-conversion efficiency is over 26 per cent.”

The previous record for solar cell efficiency was 25.6 per cent.

Further analysis, the researchers, said “pinpoints a path to approach the theoretical conversion efficiency limit of Si solar cells, 29.1 per cent”.

However a statement on the Nature website said the panels were not yet ready to be sold commercially.

“Although the study represents a record-breaking efficiency for a silicon solar cell, further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel,” it said.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments