Since their inception, solar cells have been the building blocks used to build solar panels. They are what converts the sunlight shining down onto a panel into electrical energy. This is called the “photovoltaic effect.

The current generation of solar cells has been able to convert sunlight at a rate comparable to the energy produced by competing electrical producers, but  thanks to physicists at the University of Toledo, newer solar cells have broken the mold and are producing electrical energy at a much higher rate.

Dr. Yanfa Yan, a professor of physics at the university, said the breakthrough has led to an ultra-high efficiency material for solar cells. The material will be used to harness solar energy in amounts previously unheard of in the solar industry.

“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations.”

To help understand the meaning behind the breakthrough, consider the efficiency rate of current generation solar cells. Even in the best conditions, solar cells were only capturing about 29% of the sun’s energy

Thanks to the new technological breakthroughs, new solar cells are expected to raise that level to 47%, significantly altering how much energy we’re capturing from the sun.

If solar energy was already competing with fossil fuels at efficiency levels of 29%, it’s not hard to imagine the future of clean energy with new efficiency levels nearing 50%.

Can the same leaps in technological efficiency be said of the fossil fuel industry?

Article Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/science/photovoltaic-effect

https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/solar-cell.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190514081554.htm

https://www.nrel.gov/pv/cell-efficiency.html

https://www.wired.com/story/new-designs-could-boost-solar-cells-beyond-their-limits/?verso=true