The expansion of solar energy is progressing worldwide. The boom is accelerated by advances in research. Classic solar modules now achieve efficiencies of more than thirty percent. Advances in this area always mean that less space is required to generate the same amount of energy. However, researchers have been working on so-called TMD cells for some time. These have the advantage that they are extremely thin and very flexible. So far, however, they have only been able to convert two percent of the incident sunlight into electricity. This is clearly not enough for commercially viable application scenarios. However, researchers at Stanford University have now made a double breakthrough. On the one hand, they were able to increase the conversion efficiency of the TMD cells to at least 5.1 percent. The previous record value was thus more than doubled.
The new solar cells are lighter and more powerful
This should also not be the end of the road. Rather, the researchers involved assume that further optical and electrical improvements would theoretically make a value of up to 27 percent possible. This would make the flexible TMD cells almost as powerful as the bulky solar modules used today. The Stanford researchers’ prototype also sets new records in a second area: the ratio between weight and performance. Even compared to the previously existing TMD cells, an improvement by a factor of 100 could be achieved here. This is vital. Because in almost all commercial usage scenarios, the thinner and more flexible the solar cells are, the easier they are to integrate. The researchers have thus made a decisive breakthrough here, which should accelerate the further spread of solar energy.
The application scenarios range from textiles to cars
Because the possible uses for high-performance TMD cells are extremely diverse. Portable wearables such as smartwatches could be permanently supplied with electricity in this way. Ideally, they would never need to be plugged into an outlet and could be worn 24/7. Integration into clothing is already being considered. The electricity thus generated could then be used to power small electronic applications. But there are already ideas for much larger-scale uses. For example, research is being carried out around the world on solar cars in which the sun’s energy should increase the range. High-performance and flexible solar cell films could ensure important progress here. Building facades can also be used more easily in this way to generate energy. It is now up to the researchers at Stanford to turn the promising prototype into a marketable product.