Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Process of increasing solar cell efficiency- what's it like?

  1. Jul 24, 2012 #1
    I've recently gained an interest in solar cells and it's development. I know the basic working principle of solar cells, but other than that I'm quite clueless about the field.

    I was wondering, what is the process of increasing solar cell efficiency like? Are there analytical ways of improving solar cell efficiencies? Or do researchers experiment with different material, structures, and designs through trial and error?

    Any input is greatly appreciated!

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I can't answer your exact question but it's worth noting that solar panels are already quite efficient and increasing their efficiency isn't a barrier to their adoption.

    EDIT: link fixed
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2012
  4. Jul 25, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  5. Jul 25, 2012 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    As you examine solar cell efficiency, do keep in mind that there is only about 1.4kw/m**2 of solar energy available at the earth's surface at most.
    The average amount is much less, because of the day/night cycle and clouds.
    Only that residual, maybe 500w/m**2 on average, is available to generate power in solar cells.
    Currently available solar cells are 10-20% efficient, so maybe a 100w/m**2 cell output on average if power storage is available.
    Cutting cost of the cells or developing effective power storage are probably the areas of most intensive research currently, even more so than improving cell efficiency.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook