© Fraunhofer ISE

The German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy (ISE) has set a new world record for efficiency in photovoltaic modules. Scientists at the institute have achieved an efficiency of 41.4% for a solar module that uses both high concentration photovoltaic and tandem cell technology.

The Fraunhofer ISE, together with the EU-funded CPVMatch project, set a new record for solar module efficiency at 41.4%.

The module measures 122 cm² and uses a multi-junction tandem cell configuration, with multiple layers of active cellular material stacked on top of each other to absorb different sections of the light spectrum. Fraunhofer did not specify the cellular materials used in the recording module, except that they are based on III-V composite semiconductors.

The module is also based on concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology, in which sunlight is focused on a cell by means of a Fresnel lens. The team says they were able to use achromatic lenses in the module, contributing to the record efficiency. This technology has been shown to allow very high levels of efficiency, but so far it has received little commercial acceptance as its performance is limited to areas with high levels of direct solar irradiation.

“We are very satisfied with these results, which pave the way for further efficiency gains in concentrating technology,” says Andreas Bett, director of the Fraunhofer ISE. “Photovoltaics are booming around the world and we see great potential for this particularly efficient module technology. It significantly reduces the use of resources for energy conversion per unit area and, therefore, contributes to greater sustainability ”.

As early as 2014, Fraunhofer ISE was part of a collaboration that achieved cell efficiency of 46% using combined concentrator technology and III-V multi-junction technology. Since then, he has collaborated with the CPVMatch project to advance this technology.

“At CPVMatch, we’ve covered every step of hub module production, from materials, cell fabrication and production systems, to the challenges facing module fabrication,” says Gerald Siefer, Manager of the characterization project of III-V cells and modules at Fraunhofer ISE.

While the achievement of the Fraunhofer ISE is undoubtedly impressive, and the researchers claim to have also been able to “optimize production”, it should be noted that, while extremely efficient, III-V materials are often prohibitive. expensive when it comes to mass production and so far have only been used in very specific applications, such as satellites and drones, where high efficiency is more important than cost.

This achievement could allow CPV to better compete with concentrated solar power – which converts heat from the sun into steam to generate electricity – in regions with hot, dry climates and few clouds.

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