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Swiss Federal Lab Claims New World Record For Solar Cell Efficiency 177

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-comes-the-sun dept.
Zothecula writes "Scientists based at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by the team back in 2011."
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Swiss Federal Lab Claims New World Record For Solar Cell Efficiency

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  • This will revolutionise electricity generation in such diverse fields as, uh... space craft and... um... space stations.

    • by vlm (69642)

      This will revolutionise electricity generation in such diverse fields as, uh... space craft and... um... space stations.

      Aerospace uses non-flexible crystalline at about twice the power output, because what matters is more or less watts/Kg. For non-panel satellites with cells mounted right on the satellite body, what really matters is watts/sq meter.

      Now you need flexible cells for ... um...

      • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:04PM (#42649607)

        This will revolutionise electricity generation in such diverse fields as, uh... space craft and... um... space stations.

        Aerospace uses non-flexible crystalline at about twice the power output, because what matters is more or less watts/Kg. For non-panel satellites with cells mounted right on the satellite body, what really matters is watts/sq meter.

        Now you need flexible cells for ... um...

        Easy of manufacturing, for one, but more importantly the cost of manufacture (watts/$) is very, very low.

        • by vlm (69642)

          I'd like to see a breakdown of installed panel costs. I'm guessing the cells aren't a big factor. There's a cottage industry of people charging quite a lot of money to do the install work, and the aluminum back panel, framework edges, and glass "must" cost at least as much as a standard external "storm" door of similar quality and dimensions despite having the annoying internal electrical connections and having to be waterproof. I'm guessing that the installed cost of a panel without cells would already

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Although, the efficiency they now achieved on a film is about the same [wikipedia.org] with the very best high-end stuff was 20-25 years ago. So the panels on the Hubble, for example, which was launched in 1990, launched with panels little or no better than this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:10PM (#42649679)

    Before somebody brings up 40% efficient cells, this efficiency is for a single layer. The 40%+ efficiencies are for so called multiple junction cells which are basically several solar cells stacked on top of one another. This record is for a single layer, for which 20% is really good.

    Also, comparisons with petrol engines efficiency are kinda pointless since the advantages and disadvantages of solar is environmental impact and cost respectively. Nobody really cares if it is more or less efficient than petrol. What people are concerned about is environmental impact and cost, which are not easily compared by looking at the efficiency.

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Monday January 21, 2013 @03:19PM (#42649815)

    It's the cost that matters more than efficiency. I don't need a 20% efficient panel that costs 10 times what a 10% efficient panel costs. Really I just want some inexpensive but durable panels. Something where I can recoup my costs in 3 or 4 years not a decade or so.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Personally, I would be satisfied with the cost of the panels today. The real problem is the cost of the equipment needed to install the panels, like the inverter. Plus the red tape in getting permits and whatnot for the installation.
  • by shaitand (626655)

    Let me know when you can buy a 1KW panel for $50.

  • And still polysilicon reigns as king. Why? It's because this breakthrough still hasn't changed the most important measure which is cost per watt. From a business and consumer perspective that's what matters.

    When they figure out how to reduce the cost per watt of solar, let me know. We need a to reduce the cost of solar energy to at least 1/5th of what it costs now if it's to compete with coal. Even if we figure out how to make solar cells out of newspaper .. the cost of battery/storage for overnight will ke

    • by careysub (976506)

      ... Even if we figure out how to make solar cells out of newspaper .. the cost of battery/storage for overnight will keep it's cost above that of coal.....

      Red herring. Widespread use of solar power does not require any batteries anywhere. It does not need to simulate the behavior of base load plants or replace them (nuclear plants are the ideal base load plant). Solar power is produced during the highest demand period, when electricity production costs are highest (due to peaking plants coming online). Modern combined cycle natural gas plants can vary their output by 50% or so, and can shutdown/startup in half an hour. Many hydro plants can throttle power as

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