Black Silicon Solar Cells Reach Record-Breaking 22.1% Efficiency

Aalto University’s researchers in Finland  together with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain have obtained the record-breaking efficiency of 22.1% on nanostructured silicon solar cells as certified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab.

Efficiency record for black silicon solar cells

An almost 4% absolute increase to their previous record is achieved by applying a thin passivating film on the nanostructures by Atomic Layer Deposition, and by integrating all metal contacts on the back side of the cell.

The surface recombination has long been the bottleneck of black silicon solar cells and has so far limited the cell efficiencies to only modest values. The new record cells consists of a thick back-contacted structure that is known to be highly sensitive to the front surface recombination.

The certified external quantum efficiency of 96% at 300nm wavelength demonstrates that the increased surface recombination problem no longer exists and for the first time the black silicon is not limiting the final energy conversion efficiency.

Nordic conditions

Study coordinator Professor Hele Savin from Aalto University.

Professor Hele Savin from Aalto University, who coordinated the study explains the energy conversion efficiency is not the only parameter that we should look at.

Due to the ability of black cells to capture solar radiation from low angles, they generate more electricity already over the duration of one day as compared to the traditional cells.

The study demonstrated that in winter Helsinki, black cells generate considerably more electricity than traditional cells even though both cells have identical efficiency values, which is an advantage particularly in the north, where the sun shines from a low angle for a large part of the year.

Future Technology Applications

In the near future, the goal of the team is to apply the technology to other cell structures – in particular, thin and multi-crystalline cells.

Record cells were fabricated using p-type silicon, which is known to suffer from impurity-related degradation. There is no reason why even higher efficiencies could not be reached using n-type silicon or more advanced cell structures, Hele Savin predicts.

The development of the cells fabricated last year will continue in the upcoming “BLACK” project, supported by the European Union, in which Professor Savin together with her team will develop the technology further in cooperation with industry.

The surface area of the best cells in the study was already 9 cm2, which is a good starting point for upscaling the results to full wafers and all the way to the industrial scale.

For further information read about the research published online on May 8, 2015: 22.1% efficient black silicon solar cells with interdigitated back-contacts by Hele Savin, Päivikki Repo, Guillaume von Gastrow, Pablo Ortega , Eric Calle, Moises Garín and Ramon Alcubilla. Nature Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2015.89. 

Source: Press Release by Aalto University. Image Credit: Aalto University.