NEWARK, Del. - A consortium led by the University of Delaware (UD) announced that it has created a solar cell that can convert 42.8 percent of the sunlight that hits it into electricity, besting a record set by Spectrolab and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in December 2006.
Under a program funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the UD-led consortium employed a novel optical system that splits sunlight into three components while concentrating it by about a factor of 20. Three separate solar cells - made by UD, NREL, and Emcore Corp. - convert each piece of the solar spectrum into electricity to achieve the record conversion efficiency. Unlike typical concentrating solar cells, the new device features optics that are less than one centimeter thick and that accept sunlight coming from a wide range of angles, allowing the solar device to be mounted in a fixed position.