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Australian designed solar cell breaks the 20 percent barrier

Pioneering Australian solar research has produced new photovoltaic solar cells that recently broke the 20% barrier for efficiency in capturing the sun’s energy, the highest ever efficiency for  a low-cost commercial silicon solar cell.

The solar cells reached a production capacity last year of 0.5 gigawatts, worth more than US$1 billion a year.   This is enough to power 300,000 average homes that typically have eight solar panels on them for at least 25 years.

Pluto technology, as it is patented, was developed by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham at the ARC Photovoltaics Centre for Excellence in close collaboration with the world’s largest solar cell manufacturer, Suntech-Power.

“We recently broke through the 20 per cent target for solar cell efficiency, which many experts thought was impossible and we’ve significantly lowered the costs compared to other technologies,” says Professor Green from the University of New South Wales.

Professor Green believes this success was earned through deep collaboration with Australian company Suntech-Power: “We brought our photovoltaic knowhow together with their manufacturing expertise, which used new tools and processes to create solar cells ten times the size of our lab-scale devices.”

Suntech-Power’s expertise was particularly important for lowering the costs of the cells by using cheaper processing methods, like laser patterning, and replacing expensive silver and titanium parts.

“Without this collaboration and its funding through the Australian Solar Institute, Pluto would have remained a lab prototype rather than a commercial reality,” says Professor Wenham. “Pluto is rapidly increasing its market share with many companies around the world looking to replace their existing 30 year-old production technologies.”

International studies predict that the present $100billion/year photovoltaic industry will grow to well in excess of a $trillion/year as they become the major supplier of the world’s electrical energy needs.

“While many photovoltaic researchers around the world are focused on the holy grail of higher and higher efficiencies, we believe Pluto technology has struck the ideal balance between conversion efficiency and manufacturing costs to create a truly viable alternative means of electricity production right now,” says Professor Green.

The Pluto Technology recently won a 2012 Collaborative Innovation Award at the Cooperative Research Centres Association conference in Adelaide.

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