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These researchers have set a new efficiency record in (the promising multi-purpose) flexible solar cells

The flexible solar cells they open up a world of possibilities in terms of renewable energy. Thanks to the ability to adapt them to all types of surfaces, they are more useful than traditional rigid plates. The problem? They are not yet as efficient as the latter, but they are getting closer and closer.


A group of researchers from the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) has been working with this type of solar cells for years. This work has paid off, they have established a new efficiency record of 21.4%. That is, of all the solar energy captured by these flexible solar cells, they manage to retain 21.4%

If you look at the history of flexible solar cells, over the last two decades there have been a series of records to reach 21.4% current. EMPA set a record of 12.8% in 1999, 14.1% in 2005, 17.6% in 2010, 18.7% in 2011, 20.4% in 2013 and finally 20.8% in 2019.

To again exceed its previous figure, the researchers have used a technique that creates a semiconductor film on the polymer layer. The composition of this film has electrical properties that allow researchers to increase photovoltaic performance.

What can flexible solar cells be useful for? The adjective that accompanies them describes very well for what, for flexible surfaces. Currently solar panels are rigid and require a specific installation and occupy a specific space. Flexible layers would allow them to be adapted to be placed on all types of organic surfaces such as roofs, vehicles or wearables.

In the race to break record after record

It seems like an insignificant number, but it is not. as soon as we compare it with other figures. According to the researchers, the record for traditional cells made with crystalline silicon is set at 26.7%. Generally the maximum yield is around 30%, close to the theoretical 33% that is possible to obtain. However, the occasional experiment has achieved more, such as a brutal 47.1%.

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Other methods apart from flexible solar cells Interesting ones are, for example, the one that uses perovskite or a mixture of silicon and perovskite. Where many researchers also have their eyes on is transparent solar panels, which are currently around 8% efficient.

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To improve these efficiency figures, it is often used additional characteristics that are not purely the solar cells themselves. For example, you can apply a gel that better cools the plates and makes them “perspire” as long as they maintain a low temperature and at the same time the efficiency. We have also seen combined methods that also take advantage of heat to achieve up to 85% efficiency.

Via | EMPA