SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian scientists said Monday they had made a breakthrough in increasing the efficiency of solar panels, which they hope could eventually lead to cheaper sources of renewable energy.
In what the University of New South Wales described as a world first, the researchers were able to convert more than 40 per cent of sunlight hitting the panels into electricity.
“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Professor Martin Green said in a statement.
“We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry.”
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 prototype technology is set to be harnessed by Australian company RayGen Resources for solar power towers, which use sun tracking mirrors to focus sunlight on a tall building.
Green is hopeful the technology can also eventually be used for solar panels mounted on people’s roofs, which he said currently had a 15 to 18 per cent efficiency rate.