The Theoretical Limit
Silicon is the most widely used substance in the manufacture of Solar Panels. Its apt properties to generate electricity from light energy and the ready availability of the mineral make it the most viable for large scale production of solar panels. Silicon proves efficient enough to handle the requirements for sustainable production of energy through solar methods. The term efficiency refers to the percentage of input solar energy that is converted wholly to electrical energy. As such, the efficiency of a solar cell is one of the most important parameters when it comes to calculations concerning its viability. The theoretical limit of efficiency for a silicon-based solar cell is around 29 per cent. While this sounds low, it is in fact quite high with respect to other elements. Thus Silicon is the most feasible substance to run Solar Technology on.
A Closer Look
Right now, the field of solar energy is looking to improve upon this theoretical limit or find new materials that possess better properties and are more feasible. To make any foray into these aspects, we’ll delve a little deeper into the working of solar energy production. A photon is a small packet of light energy. When passed through silicon, it produces a pair of positive and negative energy particles, which move freely in silicon due to its semiconductor properties. When they hit a selective-energy filtration contact, they produce a direct electrical current. Photons have a high amount of energy, while the two energy particles they produce in silicon have much less energy than them. This loss is what the efficiency of silicon depends on.
Surpassing the Limit
Researchers have found that certain photons have a much higher energy level than normal photons. By using a specific type of organic crystal instead of silicon, they were able to simultaneously create two pairs of positive and negative energy particles, effectively doubling the energy generated by a single photon. This breakthrough should directly double the efficiency of the solar energy production method. Although the process undergoes numerous losses in the transfer of energy and many other sub-levels, the energy efficiency was calculated to be about 40%.
The experiments on the efficiency of the solar cell are yet to reach their true fruit, but the technology looks to be doing so well, in fact, it is nearing the energy efficiency of combustion based energy generation. The surpassing of the theoretical limit is a major breakthrough that will no doubt benefit the efforts to increase sustainability and its popularity over the polluting side effects of combustion based energy production systems.
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