Thin-film Solar Cells by German Institute Breaks World Record

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The performance of thin-filmed solar cells has been further improved by the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW), which is setting a new world record for the fifth time.

ZSW – Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg – is a leading institute working in applied research for photovoltaics, renewable fuels, battery technology, fuel cells and energy system analysis.

Previously, the US research institute, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has held this record for 16 years.

The record-breaking solar cell made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS), was produced in the ZSW research laboratory in Stuttgart. This breakthrough in materials development should considerably improve the cost-effectiveness of CIGS thin-film photovoltaics over the medium term.

The rhythm of advance in the research to increase the efficiency of the cell has progressed notably during the last few years. Also, the percentage of efficiency has gone up more in the last three years –with a 0.7 per cent increase per year on average – than in the previous 15 years – with 0.1 per cent increase per year on average.

The cell that achieved the latest record was made thanks to a co-evaporation method and the manufacturing process was improved compared to the last cell. The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) has confirmed the results.

Quick advances in research and development could make thin-film cells a serious contender for the silicon-based solutions that have been mainly used until now for PV, and which still have 1.3% lead on thin-film cells.

Prof. Michael Powalla, ZSW board member and Head of the Photovoltaics division said: “I expect that we can achieve up to 25% efficiency in the years ahead.”

 

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