Researchers at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. It took three years of research on this particular solar technology to hit the new world record of 44.7 percent, an efficiency that is getting the world of solar tech tantalizingly close to 50 percent.
Just four months ago in May 2013, the group of researchers at the institute were able to achieve an efficiency of 43.6 percent with the technology.
This type of solar cell is used in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV). Phys.org reports, "The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum."
The solar cells developed in the Fraunhofer labs are manufactured by Soitec. So far, the company has produced solar cells for installations in Italy, France, South Africa and California, as well as in 14 other countries.