Developing A More Efficient Solar Cell

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Originally published on the ECOreport.

The electricity produced by current PV solar installations is not adequate for Germany’s targeted energy transformation. Photovoltaic power will have to go through a ten-fold increase over the next 15 years. This may be possible using a high performance alternative that uses Laser-Fired Contact (LFC) technology. Ralf Preu and Jan Nekarda were awarded the 2016 Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for developing a more efficient solar cell.

Developing A More Efficient Solar Cell

The back of most solar cells is coated with a wide-surface metallic contact that allows electricity to flow. In its press release, Fraunhofer explained how they could increase efficiency by inserting a very thin non-conductive layer between the cell’s  contact layer and silicon wafer:

Acting as a mirror, this layer reflects the share of sunlight not absorbed when penetrating the wafer back into the silicon wafer. Since the front side also reflects this light back into the wafer, it is also captured in the silicon wafer and the efficiency level of the solar cell increases. Drawing the electricity from the wafer requires many small apertures in the non-conductive layer in order to establish contact between the electrode metal and the silicon wafer. The LFC procedure creates each of these approximately 100,000 contacts per wafer with a single laser pulse.

“The challenge was to coordinate the pulses in such a way that contact is completely established, while damage to the silicon is kept to minimal levels. Here it’s crucial that the laser light effect is limited to between 50 and 2,000 nanoseconds,” explains Dr. Jan Nekarda, group manager at the Fraunhofer ISE.

“PERC solar cells made this way have an improved efficiency level of one percent absolute. With today’s solar cell efficiency of approximately 20 percent, that‘s about five percent relative. We gain an additional two percent in the system, which means we increase the overall energy yield by seven percent,” Ralf Preu (Division Director of PV Production Technology and Quality Assurance, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg) is happy to report.

In order to manufacture high efficiency solar cells in series production, Dr. Jan Nekarda and Dr.-Ing. Ralf Preu (left to right) developed the Laser Fired Contact (LFC) process. ©Fraunhofer ISE

This 7% increase in yield translates into a decrease in material costs and a 7% reduction in the amount of land needed to produce the same amount of electricity.

Next Evolutionary Stage Of Solar Cell

LFC technology has already gone into production.

“In the current year alone manufacturers have invested more than 200 million euros in the implementation. This finally means the establishment of the next evolutionary stage of the silicon solar cell.”

Hannah Q Cells has manufactured more than 20 million cells.

Image Credits: In order to manufacture high efficiency solar cells in series production, Dr. Jan Nekarda and Dr.-Ing. Ralf Preu (left to right) developed the Laser Fired Contact (LFC) process. ©Fraunhofer ISE


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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

Roy L Hales has 441 posts and counting. See all posts by Roy L Hales

7 thoughts on “Developing A More Efficient Solar Cell

  • Sounds great. So when will I see these for sale outside of europe?

    UPDATE – EDIT According to the q-cell site: “Q CELLS began producing modules based on Q.ANTUM in 2012.” So this is not a new story?

  • This looks like an incremental improvement to PERC. Are the claimed increases relative to non-PERC cells, or other types of PERC ones?

    Anyway, incremental progress marches on, stiffing Gates and the other “breakthrough” salesmen.

    The new international division of labour: China makes the pv modules, on equipment and technology from Germany and Switzerland.

  • Why the hell do PV cells have to get ten times better? You could just take the existing cells within Germany, move them to optimized locations in the German-bankrupted Mediterranean countries, and pay them to bring the electricity home on the grid.

    Or would that disrupt bankster agendas to reduce those countries to 3rd world wages?

  • “This 7% increase in yield translates into a decrease in material costs and a 7% reduction in the amount of land needed to produce the same amount of electricity.”

    That doesn’t seem right. The 7% increase in efficiency should give an increase in *yield* of 35%–that is, 27/20. And the inverse of that–26%–should be the reduction in land use, no?

    If I haven’t missed something, this is a bigger deal than would first appear.

    • Yea. Can we get the calculation explained please?

    • I think the 7% as well as the 5% are relative to the 20%. This results in an efficiency of 21.4%.

      • OK, that makes sense.

        In which case it’s really a smaller deal than it would appear, in that similar efficiencies are available (IIRC) via a couple of technologies.

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