All sunlight is not created equal–as any avid outdoorsman knows, some locations are much more effective at creating harsh sunburns than others. So why should solar cells be the same everywhere? They shouldn’t, according to UK firm Quantasol. The company has developed ultra-efficient customized solar cells that can be adjusted to absorb light frequencies common in a certain place.
Quantasol’s custom GaAs cell works by using indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) in layers called quantum wells that are just a few nanometers thick. The light-absorbing wells can be tweaked to absorb frequencies that pop up often in certain locations. These frequencies aren’t usually absorbed well by the rest of the GaAs cell. Once quantum wells are customized, peak efficiency of the solar cell is 28.3% when exposed to sunlight 500 times as strong as normal light. That breaks the previous GaAs solar cell efficiency record by one-tenth of a percent.
The record-breaking GaAs solar cells aren’t as cheap as commercial silicon cells, but they are thinner and have a much higher efficiency rate–silicon is usually just 10 to 12% efficient. Quantasol’s cells also can use brighter light than silicon cells without overloading, and can generate more power over days and weeks. The GaAs cells aren’t on sale yet, but Quantasol is showcasing them at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London this week.
[Via New Scientist]