'Tandem' solar cell captures more sunlight

A new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material has been developed by MIT and Stanford researchers to harvest more sun energy.

The solar cell could lead to more efficient PV cells than those currently used in solar-power installations, according to researchers.

The new cell uses a semi-transparent layer of perovskite – a material which can absorb higher-energy particles of light – added to a layer of silicon. The ‘tandem’ solar cell has both layers connected together as a single device that needs only one control circuit.

Jonathan Mailoa, one of the authors of the findings reported in the journal Applied Physics, said: “Different layers absorb different portions of sunlight. [The cell] has advantages in terms of simplicity, because it looks and operates just like a single silicon cell.”

Perovskites have been studied for potential electronic uses including solar cells, but this is the first time they have been successfully paired with silicon cells in this configuration, the team said.

They are now focusing on increasing the power efficiency to about 30 per cent from 13.7 – in this initial version – harnessed through the combined cell.

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