Australian scientists announce solar energy breakthrough

Australian researchers made a major breakthrough when they set a world record for the highest levels of solar power efficiency ever achieved, media reported Monday. A team from the University of New South Wales has achieved a record 40.4 per cent conversion efficiency by using standard solar cells combined with a mirror and filters, according to a Xinhua report.This special combination reduces wasted energy and eclipses the previous world solar power efficiency record of 36 per cent, according to Martin Green, director of the university’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (PV).

We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry.

UNSW Professor Martin Green

While traditional methods use one solar cell, which limits the conversion of sunlight to electricity to about 33 per cent, the newer technology splits the sunlight into four different cells, which boosts the conversion levels, Green told AFP. The record efficiency level was achieved in tests in Sydney and replicated at the United States government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the university said. The breakthrough is expected to make the clean solar energy a stronger competitor of polluting fossil fuels.

The panels that you have on the roof of your home, at the moment they just have a single cell but eventually they’ll have several different cells… and they’ll be able to improve their efficiency to this kind of level.

UNSW Professor Martin Green