The most efficient solar cell was created by researchers at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia. They have created a cell that converts 43% of incident light into electricity. Their previous record was 42.7% conversion rate. This new cell is actually a multi-cell combination that is using very expensive materials like gallium, phosphorous, indium, arsenic and other expensive semiconductors to increase the efficiency, but it is so expensive that is not reasonably recreatable for home use.
Another key player in solar energy is Sharp Corporation. A breakthrough by Sharp increased the proportion of solar energy converted to electricity from 31.5% to 35.8%. The technology uses a layer of a material that was previously impossible to produce as needed: InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide). Their new cell is similar to the cells that power satellites in space.
There are 3 types of solar cells that can provide electricity. The most efficient one is the so called multiple junction solar cell with 42.8% efficiency. Multiple junction cells are made of multiple thin films produced using molecular beam epitaxy or metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy.
The thin film solar cell has an efficiency of 19.9% for the solar cells based on copper indium gallium selenide thin films. These account for 15% of the solar market.
The third cells are crystalline silicon based, with the highest efficiency for these are 25%, and the theoretical limit is 29%. These types of solar panels have around 85% market share.
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