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New efficiency record for solar cells
Date:5/14/2008

The efficiency improvement is achieved by the use of an ultra-thin aluminum oxide layer at the front of the cell, and it brings a breakthrough in the use of solar energy a step closer.

An improvement of more than 1 per cent (in absolute terms) may at first glance appear modest, but it can enable solar cell manufacturers to greatly increase the performance of their products. This is because higher efficiency is a very effective way of reducing the cost price of solar energy. The costs of applying the thin layer of aluminum oxide are expected to be relatively low. This will mean a significant reduction in the cost of producing solar electricity.

Ultra-thin

Hoex was able to achieve the increase in efficiency by depositing an ultra-thin layer (approximately 30 nanometer) of aluminum oxide on the front of a crystalline silicon solar cell. This layer has an unprecedented high level of built-in negative charges, through which the normally significant energy losses at the surface are almost entirely eliminated. Of all sunlight falling on these cells, 23.2 per cent is now converted into electrical energy. This was formerly 21.9 per cent, which means a 6 per cent improvement in relative terms.

Dutch company OTB Solar

Hoex gained his PhD last week at the Applied Physics department of the TU/e with this research project. He was supported in the Plasma & Materials Processing (PMP) research group by professor Richard van de Sanden and associate professor Erwin Kessels. This group specializes in plasma deposition of extremely thin layers. The Dutch company OTB Solar has been a licensee of one of these processes since 2001, which it is using in its solar cell production lines. Numerous solar cell manufacturers around the world use equipment supplied by OTB Solar.

The ultra-thin aluminum oxide layer developed in the PMP group may lead to a technology innovation in the solar cell world. A number of major solar cell
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Contact: Bram Hoex
b.hoex@tue.nl
31-402-474-880
Eindhoven University of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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