Now, researchers from Hasselt University, imec, VITO and international partners within the PERCISTAND consortium have achieved an energy efficiency of 25 percent with a thin-film solar cell, a world’s first they say. Their wafer-thin solar cell not only generates as much energy as a traditional silicon solar cell, they are thin and flexible, making them suitable for integration into buildings and roofs.
“With these thin-film solar cells, we are truly competitive with the traditional solar panel sector for the first time”, says Prof. Bart Vermang (Hasselt University/imec/EnergyVille).
While achieving this milestone in energy efficiency, the consortium which partly consists of the collaborations within EnergyVille and Solliance, is only at an early start of the project, anticipating further improvements.
“We use two types of materials to achieve this record efficiency, which we lay on top of each other”, explained Vermang. “A traditional solar panel consists of a single layer, usually of silicon. For these solar cells, we use two different materials that reinforce each other. Our consortium is a collaboration of what we can safely call the best thin-film solar cell research groups in the world. Some of the partners are working on the bottom cell, while others are working on the top cell. In recent weeks we’ve combined the best bottom and top cells, which is how we have already achieved this high efficiency level of 25 percent. Our ambition now is to generate an energy efficiency of 30 percent within the next three years.”
Because the solar cells are so thin, less material is needed to make solar panels which will make these solar panels even cheaper than traditional silicon cells, the researchers say.
“Within this project we’re also working with economists to analyze the cost of these solar cells. In this way we hope to have a business model ready by the end of the project with which businesses wishing to produce these solar cells can get started”, continued Vermang.