Researchers at MIT have unveiled an innovation in solar cell design that could be much more efficient and cost less than currently used solar cells. Professor Lionel Kimerling and his colleagues presented results of the first device prototype at a recent meeting of the Materials Research Society in Boston.
The design combines a highly effective reflector on the back of a solar cell with an antireflective coating on the front. This helps trap light, keeping it bouncing around within the cell where it has more chances to interact and make electricity. The research team is licensing similar technology to StarSolar, a startup in Cambridge, MA.
The researchers applied their light-trapping scheme on real world thin silicon cells that are about five micrometers thick.
Their prototype solar cell is 15 percent more efficient at converting light into electricity than commercial thin-film solar cells. Project leader Peter Bermel, who is StarSolar’s chief technology officer, says that sophisticated computer simulations suggest that much greater gains in efficiency are possible.