IBM has created a new form of solar cell using inexpensive products that can convert sunlight into solar energy with an efficiency that has never been seen before without using more expensive materials.
The electronics company announced on Thursday that it has constructed a new solar cell that comprises its entire layer that absorbs light for conversion into energy from readily-available elements – copper, tin, zinc, sulfur, and selenium.
Using the inexpensive materials, the new cell can convert sunlight into solar energy at a 9.6 percent efficiency rate. The figure serves as a new world record for the set of materials used in its creation, besting the efficiency of previous cells that had used similar materials by 40 percent.
“In a given hour, more energy from sunlight strikes the earth than the entire planet consumes in a year, but solar cells currently contribute less than 0.1 percent of electricity supply…” said Dr. David Mitzi, a lead researcher for IBM.”The quest to develop a solar technology that can compare on a cost per watt basis with the conventional electricity generation… has become a major challenge that our research is moving us closer to overcoming.”
IBM added that the only solar energy cell modules that can currently produce efficiency levels from 9 to 11 percent are made from either indium gallium selenide or cadmium telluride, both of which are extremely costly. Similarly, attempts to create solar cells using cheaper, readily-available materials had topped out at a 6.7 percent efficiency level.