1366 Technologies, founded in part by Sachs, claims that it has improved the efficiency of its new multicrystalline silicon solar cells by 27 percent, putting them on par with today’s standard cells made from single-crystal silicon.
The new technology involves three key innovations that improve efficiency. The first allows the silicon to absorb more light by adding a texture to the cell’s surface that helps keep the light in the cell. The second is small, silver wires which block less light from entering the cell, are cheaper, and have better conductivity. Finally, wide, flat wires used to collect the current from the silver wires have been modified to not block entering light and instead help keep it in the cell.
So far, the technology has only been tested on small solar cells, about 2 centimeters accross. If the technology scales up well, Sachs says that it could significantly lower the cost of solar electricity. Today’s solar cells cost about $2.10 per watt generated, compared to $1/watt for coal. The first cells manufactured using the new technology could bring the price down to $1.65/watt and further improvements are expected to get that figure as low as $1.30/watt, closing in on the cost of traditional electricity.
Hopefully the large-scale tests go smoothly so that we can begin getting more of our power from renewable solar energy. [via Technology Review]