IBM Breaks World Record for Solar Efficiency by Ashly Sun

IBMs new thin-film solar cell has broken a world record for having an efficiency of 9.6 percent.

The solar cell- made up of zinc, copper, tin and sulphur/selenium- has an efficiency rating that is 40 percent higher than older solar cells made up of the same materials. Thin film solar cells usually have a 9 to 11 percent efficiency rate, and usually come from very expensive elements like cadmium, gallium and indium.

In 2008, IBM developed the concentrating photovoltaic technology with the aim to reduce the cost of producing solar energy by using less photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light onto each cell using larger lenses. IBMs strategy comes from its capacity to cool the tiny solar cell and to concentrate the equivalent of 2000 suns on a small area for melting stainless steel. IBM also uses its technology for cooling computer chips which had enabled solar cells to cool from.

greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius.

IBM has also developed a system that achieved breakthrough results by combining a commercial solar cell with an advanced IBM liquid metal thermal cooling system using microprocessor industry methods.

The melted liquid metal called thermal interface layer is applied between the chip and the cooling block so that heat may be transferred and chip temperature may be kept low. The technology, which was developed by IBM originally to cool high power computer chips, gives an excellent thermal performance at a low cost.

CPV technology has the capacity to provide the lowest-cost solar electricity for large-scale power generation, as long as the temperature of the cells are kept low and cost-effective optics can be developed for concentrating the light to high levels.

Aside from photovoltaic research, IBM is also involved in energy efficient technology and services, advanced water management, carbon management, intelligent transportation systems and intelligent utility systems.

IBM Research lead photovoltaics scientist Dr. Supratik Guha said that he believes IBM can supply knowledge from their extensive experience in semiconductors and nanotechnology to the field of alternative energy research.