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A recent trend in photovoltaic technology is to aim to enhance the conversion efficiency of this energy harvesting technique. Although multijunction solar cells offer high efficiency, factors such as fabrication cost, cost per watt of energy produced, etc. limit their application. An alternative approach based on a lower-bandgap GaAs/GaSb dual-junction solar cell is proposed herein. For efficient use of longer wavelengths of the solar spectrum, a model for a simple antireflection coating (ARC)-less GaAs/GaSb dual-junction cell with a double back-surface field layer was optimized. The model was simulated using the Silvaco ATLAS technology computer-aided design (TCAD) tool and validated based on parameters such as the quantum efficiency, photogeneration rate, and spectral response. The model predicts conversion efficiency of 54%, better than some reported experimental results.
A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is an electronic device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and chemical phenomenon. It is a form of photoelectric cell, defined as a device whose electrical characteristics, such as current, voltage, or resistance, vary when exposed to light. Individual solar cell devices are often the electrical building blocks of photovoltaic modules, known colloquially as solar panels. The common single junction silicon solar cell can produce a maximum open-circuit voltage of approximately 0.5 to 0.6 volts.
In contrast, a solar thermal collector supplies heat by absorbing sunlight, for the purpose of either direct heating or indirect electrical power generation from heat. A "photoelectrolytic cell" (photoelectrochemical cell), on the other hand, refers either to a type of photovoltaic cell (like that developed by Edmond Becquerel and modern dye-sensitized solar cells), or to a device that splits water directly into hydrogen and oxygen using only solar illumination.
Assemblies of solar cells are used to make solar modules that generate electrical power from sunlight, as distinguished from a "solar thermal module" or "solar hot water panel". A solar array generates solar power using solar energy.
Multiple solar cells in an integrated group, all oriented in one plane, constitute a solar photovoltaic panel or module. Photovoltaic modules often have a sheet of glass on the sun-facing side, allowing light to pass while protecting the semiconductor wafers. Solar cells are usually connected in series creating additive voltage. Connecting cells in parallel yields a higher current.
Solar cells were first used in a prominent application when they were proposed and flown on the Vanguard satellite in 1958, as an alternative power source to the primary battery power source. By adding cells to the outside of the body, the mission time could be extended with no major changes to the spacecraft or its power systems. In 1959 the United States launched Explorer 6, featuring large wing-shaped solar arrays, which became a common feature in satellites. These arrays consisted of 9600 Hoffman solar cells.
By the 1960s, solar cells were (and still are) the main power source for most Earth orbiting satellites and a number of probes into the solar system, since they offered the best power-to-weight ratio. However, this success was possible because in the space application, power system costs could be high, because space users had few other power options, and were willing to pay for the best possible cells. The space power market drove the development of higher efficiencies in solar cells up until the National Science Foundation "Research Applied to National Needs" program began to push development of solar cells for terrestrial applications.
In the early 1990s the technology used for space solar cells diverged from the silicon technology used for terrestrial panels, with the spacecraft application shifting to gallium arsenide-based III-V semiconductor materials, which then evolved into the modern III-V multijunction photovoltaic cell used on spacecraft.
In recent years, research has moved towards designing and manufacturing lightweight, flexible, and highly efficient solar cells. Terrestrial solar cell technology generally uses photovoltaic cells that are laminated with a layer of glass for strength and protection. Space applications for solar cells require that the cells and arrays are both highly efficient and extremely lightweight. Some newer technology implemented on satellites are multi-junction photovoltaic cells, which are composed of different PN junctions with varying bandgaps in order to utilize a wider spectrum of the sun's energy. Additionally, large satellites require the use of large solar arrays to produce electricity. These solar arrays need to be broken down to fit in the geometric constraints of the launch vehicle the satellite travels on before being injected into orbit. Historically, solar cells on satellites consisted of several small terrestrial panels folded together. These small panels would be unfolded into a large panel after the satellite is deployed in its orbit. Newer satellites aim to use flexible rollable solar arrays that are very lightweight and can be packed into a very small volume. The smaller size and weight of these flexible arrays drastically decreases the overall cost of launching a satellite due to the direct relationship between payload weight and launch cost of a launch vehicle.
Adjusting for inflation, it cost $96 per watt for a solar module in the mid-1970s. Process improvements and a very large boost in production have brought that figure down more than 99%, to 30¢ per watt in 2018 and as low as 20¢ per watt in 2020.Swanson's law is an observation similar to Moore's Law that states that solar cell prices fall 20% for every doubling of industry capacity. It was featured in an article in the British weekly newspaper The Economist in late 2012. Balance of system costs were then higher than those of the panels. Large commercial arrays could be built, as of 2018, at below $1.00 a watt, fully commissioned.
Falling costs are considered one of the biggest factors in the rapid growth of renewable energy, with the cost of solar photovoltaic electricity falling by ~85% between 2010 (when solar and wind made up 1.7% of global electricity generation) and 2021 (where they made up 8.7%). In 2019 solar cells accounted for ~3 % of the world's electricity generation.
As of the end of 2016, it was reported that spot prices for assembled solar panels (not cells) had fallen to a record-low of US$0.36/Wp. The second largest supplier, Canadian Solar Inc., had reported costs of US$0.37/Wp in the third quarter of 2016, having dropped $0.02 from the previous quarter, and hence was probably still at least breaking even. Many producers expected costs would drop to the vicinity of $0.30 by the end of 2017. It was also reported that new solar installations were cheaper than coal-based thermal power plants in some regions of the world, and this was expected to be the case in most of the world within a decade.
In operation, photons in sunlight hit the solar cell and are absorbed by the semiconductor. When the photons are absorbed, electrons are excited from the valence band to the conduction band (or from occupied to unoccupied molecular orbitals in the case of an organic solar cell), producing electron-hole pairs. If the electron-hole pairs are created near the junction between p-type and n-type materials the local electric field sweeps them apart to opposite electrodes, producing an excess of electrons on one side and an excess of holes on the other. When the solar cell is unconnected (or the external electrical load is very high) the electrons and holes will ultimately restore equilibrium by diffusing back across the junction against the field and recombine with each other giving off heat, but if the load is small enough then it is easier for equilibrium to be restored by the excess electrons going around the external circuit, doing useful work along the way.
The fill factor is the ratio of the actual maximum obtainable power to the product of the open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current. This is a key parameter in evaluating performance. In 2009, typical commercial solar cells had a fill factor > 0.70. Grade B cells were usually between 0.4 and 0.7. Cells with a high fill factor have a low equivalent series resistance and a high equivalent shunt resistance, so less of the current produced by the cell is dissipated in internal losses.
In 2014, three companies broke the record of 25.6% for a silicon solar cell. Panasonic's was the most efficient. The company moved the front contacts to the rear of the panel, eliminating shaded areas. In addition they applied thin silicon films to the (high quality silicon) wafer's front and back to eliminate defects at or near the wafer surface.
In 2015, a 4-junction GaInP/GaAs//GaInAsP/GaInAs solar cell achieved a new laboratory record efficiency of 46.1% (concentration ratio of sunlight = 312) in a French-German collaboration between the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE), CEA-LETI and SOITEC.
In 2017, a team of researchers at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), EPFL and CSEM (Switzerland) reported record one-sun efficiencies of 32.8% for dual-junction GaInP/GaAs solar cell devices. In addition, the dual-junction device was mechanically stacked with a Si solar cell, to achieve a record one-sun efficiency of 35.9% for triple-junction solar cells.
Monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) solar cells feature a single-crystal composition that enables electrons to move more freely than in a multi-crystal configuration. Consequently, monocrystalline solar panels deliver a higher efficiency than their multicrystalline counterparts. The corners of the cells look clipped, like an octagon, because the wafer material is cut from cylindrical ingots, that are typically grown by the Czochralski process. Solar panels using mono-Si cells display a distinctive pattern of small white diamonds. 2b1af7f3a8