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10-02 :: February 2010
nanotimes
39
News in Brief
Solar Cells //
IBM Sets World Record by Creating High-Efficiency
Solar Cell Made from Earth-Abundant Materials
I
BM (NYSE: IBM) has built a solar cell – where the
key layer that absorbs most of the light for con-
version into electricity, is made entirely of readily-
available elements – that set a new world record
for efficiency and holds potential for enabling solar
cell technology to produce more energy at a lower
cost. Comprised of copper (Cu), tin (Sn), zinc (Zn),
sulfur (S), and/or selenium (Se), the cell‘s power
conversion demonstrates an efficiency of 9.6% –
40% higher than the value previously attained for
this set of materials. In order to achieve progress in
solar cell research, IBM is leveraging its world-class
expertise in microprocessor technology, materials
Magnified view of the kesterite cross section. © IBM
and manufacturing.
“In a given hour, more energy from sunlight strikes on of solution and nanoparticle-based approaches,
the earth than the entire planet consumes in a year, rather than the popular, but expensive vacuum-ba-
but solar cells currently contribute less than 0.1% of sed technique. The production change is expected to
electricity supply – primarily as a result of cost,” said enable much lower fabrication costs, as it is consi-
Dr. David Mitzi, who leads the team at IBM Research stent with high-throughput and high materials utiliza-
that developed the solar cell. “The quest to develop tion based deposition techniques including printing,
a solar technology that can compare on a cost per dip and spray coating and slit casting.
watt basis with the conventional electricity generati-
on, and also offer the ability to deploy at the terawatt Currently available thin film solar cell modules based
level, has become a major challenge that our upon compound semiconductors operate at 9 to
research is moving us closer to overcoming.” 11% efficiency levels, and are primarily made from
two costly compounds – copper indium gallium
The solar cell development also sets itself apart from selenide or cadmium telluride. Attempts to create
its predecessors as it was created using a combinati- affordable, earth abundant solar cells from related
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