IBM Breaks World Record for Solar Efficiency

IBM’s new thin-film solar cell has broken a world record for having an efficiency of 9.6 percent.

The solar cell- made up of zinc, copper, tin and sulphur/selenium- has an efficiency rating that is 40 percent higher than older solar cells made up of the same materials. Thin film solar cells usually have a 9 to 11 percent efficiency rate, and usually come from very expensive elements like cadmium, gallium and indium.

Solar cells that do not have the expensive elements mentioned usually have an efficiency that doesn’t surpass 6.7 percent.

Other than being more efficient, the new IBM solar cell is also cheaper in terms of printing costs, slit casting, and dip and spray coating because it uses a mix of solution and nanoparticle-based method in place of the old vacuum method.

IBM lead researcher Dr. David Mitzi said that IBM is close to developing solar technology that is cost-effective while at the same time has the capacity to deploy at terawatt level.

IBM scientists use a large lens for concentrating the sun’s power – a technology known as concentrator photovoltaics or CPV– to convert sunlight into 70 watts of electricity. IBM’s output is said to be five times the electrical power density produced by other solar farms using CPV technology.

In 2008, IBM developed the concentrating photovoltaic technology with the aim to reduce the cost of producing solar energy by using less photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light onto each cell using larger lenses. IBM’s strategy comes from its capacity to cool the tiny solar cell and to concentrate the equivalent of 2000 suns on a small area for melting stainless steel. IBM also uses its technology for cooling computer chips which had enabled solar cells to cool from greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius.

IBM has also developed a system that achieved breakthrough results by combining a commercial solar cell with an advanced IBM liquid metal thermal cooling system using microprocessor industry methods.

The melted liquid metal –called thermal interface layer– is applied between the chip and the cooling block so that heat may be transferred and chip temperature may be kept low. The technology, which was developed by IBM originally to cool high power computer chips, gives an excellent thermal performance at a low cost.

CPV technology has the capacity to provide the lowest-cost solar electricity for large-scale power generation, as long as the temperature of the cells are kept low and cost-effective optics can be developed for concentrating the light to high levels.

Aside from photovoltaic research, IBM is also involved in energy efficient technology and services, advanced water management, carbon management, intelligent transportation systems and intelligent utility systems.

IBM Research lead photovoltaics scientist Dr. Supratik Guha said that he believes IBM can supply knowledge from their extensive experience in semiconductors and nanotechnology to the field of alternative energy research.

About The Author
Ashly Sun is a seasoned writer, having travelled around the world, largely putting all her experiences and the sights and sounds she has come across to paper. She now writes extensively about topics related to green news, mostly on renewable energy, but also on a variety of related topics as well. When not travelling around the world, she is based in Central Hong Kong, taking in the myriad colours, flavours, and scents of the melting pot that Hong Kong is known for.

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Article Source:
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