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Making solar more efficient


A significant breakthrough by researchers in America could lead to rooftop solar energy systems that are far more efficient than traditional silicon cells, according to new research.

Researchers at Penn State have tested a prototype of a concentrating photovoltaic system (CPV) – which are usually prohibitively large to use domestically.

“What we’re trying to do is create a high-efficiency CPV system in the form factor of a traditional silicon solar panel,” said Chris Giebink, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Penn State. “Our goal in these recent experiments was to demonstrate the technical feasibility of such a system. We put together a prototype with a single microcell and a pair of lenses that concentrated sunlight more than 600 times, took it outdoors and had it automatically track the sun over the course of an entire day.”

The team achieved 30% efficiency with the CPV system – tested on two sunny days, from dawn to dusk, with the silicon cell at 17%.

“With the right engineering, we’re looking at a step-change in efficiency that could be useful in applications ranging from rooftops to electric vehicles — really anywhere it’s important to generate a lot of solar power from a limited area,” added Giebink.

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