A research team at the University of Illinois in the United States has devised a new technique to improve the productivity of solar panels.
The Physical Science journal reported that the team developed new multilayered solar panels with the potential to be 1.5 times more efficient than traditional silicon panels.
The Science Daily website cited engineer Minjoo Larry Lee, professor of electrical and computer engineering, as saying: "Silicon solar panels can convert a little over 20% of the sun's light into usable electricity. But silicon solar cells are reaching the limit of their abilities, so finding a way to increase efficiency is attractive to energy providers and consumers."
Lee's team has been working to layer the semiconductor material gallium arsenide phosphide onto silicon because the two materials complement each other. Both materials absorb visible light strongly, but gallium arsenide phosphide does so while generating less waste heat.
While gallium arsenide phosphide and other semiconductor materials like it are efficient and stable, they are expensive, so making panels composed entirely from them is not reasonable for mass production at this time, Lee said. The team therefore resorted to low-cost silicon as a starting point for its research.
Eventually, a utility company could use this technology to get 1.5 times more energy, or a consumer could use less space for rooftop panels, he explained.
Lee said obstacles remain on the path to commercialization, but he is hopeful that energy providers and consumers will see the value in using stable materials to achieve a performance boost.