Researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have developed a solar cell that has potential to be more affordable and efficient than current photovoltaic cells. The team’s report states that the cell combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun's energy.
The concept, dubbed “step cell,” consists of two layers arranged in a stepwise fashion, with the lower layer protruding out beneath the upper layer in order to expose both layers to incoming sunlight.
Layered solar cells such as these are typically expensive to manufacture, but researchers successfully implemented a low-cost manufacturing process for this particular cell.
In addition to being cheaper to produce, the PV cell concept is also much more productive. The team estimates theoretical efficiencies above 40% and approximate practical efficiencies of 35%.
MIT’s Eugene Fitzgerald estimates the step cells could be ready for the PV market within the next couple of years and plans on forming a startup company to commercialize it.