Thin-Film Solar Silicon Cell Reaches Record 12% Efficiency

United Solar, the thin-film subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (Nasdaq: ENER) announced it achieved the highest efficiency rating to date for a large area solar cell using its thin-film PV silicon cell – 12%. 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) measured and confirmed the 12% conversion efficiency rating of a large-area solar cell using United’s proprietary Nano-Crystalline(TM) silicon.
United Solar has worked with NREL for more than two decades on research and development of advanced thin-film PV technologies.

"United Solar has been the unquestioned leader in their field and one of the few PV companies in the world that can offer a true building integrated photovoltaic product,"said Dr. Ryne Raffaelle, Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics at NREL.

The record-setting cell efficiency with an area of 400 square centimeters was encapsulated in United Solar’s proprietary thin-film polymer. They use triple-junction technology to incorporate Nano-Crystalline silicon layers on a flexible stainless steel substrate. That increases cell efficiency by about 50%, relative to current United Solar cells in production.

The world record efficiency was achieved under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative Program led by United Solar with participation from NREL and associated universities.

The technology will enter commercial production in 2012 and is expected to reduce the cost of generating solar electricity by over 20%.

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  1. ECD Fan

    You got this news all wrong! Thin-film solar PV reached record 12% Efficiency in 1985, that is, 26-years ago. Here is the press release:

    COPYRIGHT 1985 PR Newswire Association, Inc.
    PR Newswire
    September 4, 1985, Wednesday
    LENGTH: 342 words
    DATELINE: ROME, Sept. 4

    ROME, Sept. 4 /PRN/ — An unprecedented energy conversion
    efficiency of 12.2 percent in solar cells made of proprietary
    amorphous material alloys has been achieved by scientists in Troy,
    Mich., Stanford R. Ovshinsky, president of Energy Conversion Devices,
    Inc. (OTC: ENER), announced in Rome today.
    Ovshinsky said that ECD, in a joint venture with The Standard Oil
    Co. (Ohio) (“Sohio”), is already manufacturing one-foot-wide, up to
    1,000-foot-long continuous-strip solar cells with efficiencies in the
    8-percent range.
    The new high efficiency was achieved in a one-square-centimeter
    solar cell consisting of three extremely thin, vertically stacked
    sub-cells made of proprietary fluorinated amorphous materials, each
    sub-cell sensitive to a different color in the solar spectrum
    rainbow. The cells were produced by Sovonics Solar Systems, a
    partnership of ECD and Sohio, and reported to the 11th International
    Conference on Amorphous and Liquid Semiconductors in Rome.
    The 8-percent efficiency in the commercial-size cells now being
    manufactured is achieved with two-layered or tandem cells. Looking
    to the future, Ovshinsky said, “From the start of our work in
    photovoltaics, we have consistently been able to duplicate laboratory
    results in our large-area operations. This is an important step
    towards achieving higher efficiency commercial solar cells.
    “Another major advantage of multi-layer cells is excellent
    stability. The triple-cell design has proven in our laboratories to
    retain over 90 percent of its efficiency over a 20-year period. Other
    high-efficiency amorphous solar cells lose as much as half of their
    efficiency after only 24 hours of illumination.”
    Subhendu Guha, Ph.D., delivered an invited paper at the
    conference in Rome, describing the amorphous materials that enable
    Sovonics to achieve these high-efficiency, stable cells. The
    laboratory work was done by a team headed by Jeffrey Yang, Ph.D

  2. DOE staffer

    why doe the DOE’s NREL lab participate in such scams? This is so obviously misleading, given what ECD Fan has just pointed out.

    Time to clear out the stables at the national labs and bring back credibility.

  3. PV Supporter

    The press release is about a 12% thin film silicon material. Just go to Uni-Solar’s website and read the press release.Do some homework before you waste everyon’es time.

  4. solar for everybody

    from ecd fan article “in a one-square-centimeter solar cell consisting of three extremely thin.”
    this article”The record-setting cell efficiency with an area of 400 square centimeters was encapsulated in United Solar’s proprietary thin-film polymer. They use triple-junction technology to incorporate Nano-Crystalline silicon layers on a flexible stainless steel substrate.” the break through was the ability to make a larger than 1 cm square piece of solar cell that produces 12% efficiency. and can be done in a large scale manufacturing environment. read both articles before you type.

  5. ECD Fan

    To solar for everybody and PV supporter:

    ECD/United Solar is scamming anybody who is misinformed, and NREL is aiding and abetting. The 12% number that NREL is giving today is just cell efficiency and it is NOT STABILIZED. As NREL knows very well, a-Si, even nc-Si, suffers from a severe initial light-induced degradation (unlike c-Si).

    But look at this historical precedent: NREL had the arrogance to confirm 10.4% STABILIZED efficiency for Unisolar’s a-Si/a-SiGe/a-SiGe MODULE (I repeat, MODULE, not a cell!) in 1998. 13 years later, Unisolar’s most efficient module is still JUST 6.7% efficient.

    So, no, Unisolar cannot do 12% efficient modules. All it can do is 6.7%-inefficient modules at horrendous, uncompetitive costs (north of $1.50 per Watt). Their thin-film competitor, First Solar, makes 11.1% efficient modules for 77c per Watt.

    Shame on NREL!


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