To address the question, a clear definition of efficiency has to be established. With reference to solar cells, efficiency is described as the amount of energy in the form of sunlight that can be converted into electricity with the use of photovoltaic cells. Efficiency rating means the measurement of the amount of sunlight hitting the panel which actually gets converted into electricity.
How efficiency varies
Depending on the style used in solar panels construction, the efficiency range will vary. However, they are all around the same value but cannot cover the entire solar range. Normal solar panels have efficiencies of between 11-15%.
This means that much of the sunlight will be wasted by solar modules unless the use of a monochromatic light is established which increases efficiency. This has led to more development to increase the efficiency ranges of solar panels and significant changes on the methods of getting electricity.
Studies and Current Development
Scientists have developed a better, and theoretically ingenious way of improving efficiency ranges of solar panels. It’s made by the splitting of light into different wavelengths and directing them into specific and customized cells. According to scientists, this increases the range to about 50% of initial efficiency. This is because it allows the highest number of photons to interact with free electrons for maximum electricity production.
Many companies all over the world have been actively researching and trying to develop better and more efficient solar panels. Among them is Spectrolab, a subsidiary of the airplane manufacturer Boeing. They have developed multi-junction cells which increases solar panel efficiency to about 40%.
This sets the world record as the most efficient photovoltaic cell on earth. The lab has stated that efficiency can even be achieved of up to 45-50%. However, that type of efficiency hasn’t been reached yet. However, that type of efficiency and up to 58% efficiency are theoretically possible, especially when more than three junctions are used in a cell.
Research has also shown that efficiency can be improved with the use of better nanocylinders. Nanocylinders are studded on light-receiving semiconductors. Most nanocylinders are made of gold or silver. Their efficiency can be improved with the use of a nanocylinder made of aluminum. Why aluminum? That’s because the scattered light moves along a longer path in the semiconductor.
This means that more photons are converted into electricity. However, light scattering occurs in infrared light and visible light. Aluminum is found to absorb ultraviolet light while scattering infrared and visible light. Moreover, aluminum is more readily available and less expensive that gold and silver.
Technological advancement and research will definitely help improve the efficiency of solar panels. However, it is important to note that efficiency doesn’t necessarily mean better. It only means that you can use a little less rooftop space for the enhanced solar panels. The higher the efficiency, the less rooftop space is needed by the panel.