IBM says it has achieved a breakthrough in solar photovoltaics technology by capturing a record 230 W onto a centimeter-square solar cell. This concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) technology enabled the conversion of 70 watts of usable electrical power – about five times the electrical power density generated by typical cells using CPV technology in solar farms, the company says.
IBM's technology uses a much lower number of photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrates more light onto each cell using larger lenses, delivering a substantial cost advantage, the company says. By moving from a 200-sun system (where about 20 W per square centimeter of power is concentrated onto the cell) to IBM's 2300-sun system (where approximately 230 W per square centimeter are concentrated onto the cell system), the number of photovoltaic cells and other components can be cut by a factor of 10.
‘We believe IBM can bring unique skills from our vast experience in semiconductors and nanotechnology to the important field of alternative energy research,’ says Dr. Supratik Guha, the scientist leading photovoltaics activities at IBM Research. ‘This is one of many exploratory research projects incubating in our labs where we can drive big change for an entire industry while advancing the basic underlying science of solar cell technology.’
The IBM research team developed a system that couples a commercial solar cell with an advanced liquid-metal thermal cooling system, using methods developed for the microprocessor industry. A very thin layer of liquid gallium and indium was applied to transfer the intense heat from the cell to a cooling block.
IBM Research: (914) 945-1655