Thin Is In: New Thin-Film Research Could Lead To Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Panels

Thin Is In: New Thin-Film Research Could Lead To Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Panels

January 18, 2019

On a clear day, approximately 125 watts of sunlight reaches each square foot of Earth’s surface. The most efficient commercial solar panels are able to use about 22% of that power, but a University of Delaware scientist says that’s about to change.

Brian McCandless of the school’s Institute of Energy Conservation has created an array that uses a thin film of cadmium telluride, which bested bulkier silicon panels by over 13%.

“Thin film materials for photovoltaics such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper-indium diselenide-based chalcopyrites (CIGS), and lead iodide-based perovskites offer the potential of lower solar module capital costs and improved performance to microcrystalline silicon,” McCandless and his team wrote in a paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports

What’s more, thin films may allow for fast production of lighter, more flexible solar panels, opening up new design options, the university pointed out.

McCandless has patented a tool, called a vapor transport deposition system, that enables him to manipulate properties within the film for increased conductivity and voltage. “Cadmium telluride absorbs sunlight really, really well,” McCandless told the university. “A lot of properties make it great. But we were only getting about 0.8 volts out of any cell. With its high absorption properties and optimal band gap, we should be able to generate 1.1 volts.”

These results have so far only been confirmed in a lab setting, but the practical promise of the team’s work is intriguing.You can read more about this breakthrough at UDaily.