Direct From Outer Space to a Rooftop Near You: Record-Breaking Solar Cells Win Prestigious Award

solar concentrating photovoltaic panel image

image: EMCORE

You may never have heard of the R&D; 100 Awards, but they have been called by The Chicago Tribune the "Oscars of Invention". And while unless you're a scientist you may never directly come in contact with many the products given awards, one product to which you might want to pay attention is an innovative solar cell developed by EMCORE.

EMCORE Solar Cell Sets Efficiency Record
Developed in conjunction with the National Energy Research Laboratory and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, EMCORE's Inverted Metamorphic Multi-Junction Solar Cell Technology (IMM) has set a world record for in-orbit conversion efficiency of 33%. When adapted to use in the company's terrestrial-based concentrator photovoltaic systems (CPV), efficiencies between 42-45% are expected to be achieved.

EMCORE touts its CPV systems:

Using optical lenses and mirrors we concentrate the sunlight onto a very small, highly efficient Multi-Junction solar cell. For example, under 500-sun concentration, 1 cm2 of solar cell area produces the same electricity as 500 cm2 would, without concentration. This is particularly significant when considering the inherent efficiency advantage of the Multi-Junction technology over Silicon solar cells The use of concentration, therefore, allows substitution of cost-effective materials such as lenses and mirrors for the more costly semiconductor PV cell material.

That's all fine and good, but what does that mean for we mere earthbound mortals? First of all, a reduction in cost of solar power systems. EMCORE expects that CPV systems using their IMM-based products will see a cost reduction for the power they generate of 10-20%. Commercial versions of this technology, for both space and terrestrial application, are will be release in 2009.

Whether this technology achieves enough market penetration to create cost reductions which are widespread enough to change the timeframe in which solar power achieves parity with fossil fuels remains to be seen.

:: EMCORE via :: CleanTechnica
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