So-called “hot carrier” solar cells (HCSC) offer a theoretical route to conversion efficiencies beyond current theoretical limits. By isolating and capturing energy from particles carrying excess kinetic energy which is usually lost as heat, the concept promises cell yields well over 30%, even for a single junction device.
The theory has been around for several decades, but so far no hot carrier cells have been successfully fabricated. The “imperfections” that would limit the practical performance of such a device, compared to models of what is theoretically possible, are not well understood.
Scientists led by Japan’s University of Tokyo investigated the resilience of HCSCs to these “non-ideal” scenarios and introduced a “hot-carrier multi-junction solar cell” (HCMJ) as an approach that modeling suggests may be less vulnerable. . They described the research in “Multi-junction hot-carrier solar cells: sensitivity and resilience to non-idealitieswhich was recently published in Journal of Photonics for Energy.
While the model showed that the HCSC had the highest efficiency potential, the HCMJ demonstrated a smaller performance drop when other non-optimal designs were used. They also modeled cell performance under different light and temperature conditions, and were able to expand the list of materials potentially suitable for hot carrier devices.
“Hot-carrier photovoltaics have been proposed since the early 1980s as a way to achieve higher efficiencies that exceed the conventional ‘detailed equilibrium’ limit, but they have yet to be put into practice”, explained Sean Sheehan, editor. of the journal that published the research. “The work of Giteau and his colleagues provides a strategy to bring them closer to their realization by loosening the constraint of near-perfect materials, which otherwise easily reduce the performance of real-world devices.”
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