This is what a group of researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia (UNSW) have been working on for some time. They`ve found a method that allows them to produce high-efficiency solar panels from low-grade silicon, which in the long run could help us bring the prices of solar down.
Professor Stuart Wenham from the School of PV and Renewable Energy Engineering at UNSW says that the research will lead to cell efficiencies between 21 and 23 percent (a couple of percentages higher than what most crystalline-based solar cells operate under today).
SunPower recently released their X-series of solar panels with a record-breaking module efficiency of 21.5 percent. Consequently these are some of the most expensive solar panels you`ll find on the market. Here`s a comparison over the most efficient solar panels today. Solar cells that are based on monocrystalline (such as SunPower`s Maxeon cell) are generally more efficient than those based on polycrystalline (or lower grade silicon). Making monocrystalline silicon is unfortunately more expensive and more raw materials are wasted in the process. Learn more about the differences between mono, polycrystalline and thin film solar panels.
Low-grade silicon contains certain defects that lower the performance of the solar cell. The research team at UNSW have found a way to “control the charge state of hydrogen atoms in silicon”, which can help correct these defects:
“We have seen a 10,000 times improvement in the mobility of the hydrogen and we can control the hydrogen so it chemically bonds to things like defects and contaminants, making these inactive,” says Wenham.
The researchers are talking with industry partners with hopes of bringing the technology to the market. It will be interesting to follow the team for the next couple of months. Maybe their discovery will actually help bringing down the prices of PV solar panels in the near future?
Source: PV Magazine