An increase in the efficiency of solar panels may be on the horizon, as research from The Australian National University (ANU) reduces their current limitations.   

ANU researchers have found a way to improve the performance of silicon photovoltaic (PV) or solar cells. This is done through the addition of “passivating contacts” between the metal and silicon parts of the solar cell, making it more productive.  

“These findings will help push the performance of silicon solar cells closer to their theoretical limit,” Mohamed Ismael, lead ANU researcher and PhD candidate said.  

“Each day, the sun produces significantly more energy than needed to power the whole planet. The only limitation is our ability to economically convert it to electricity,” he said.  

PhD candidate Mohamed Ismael (left) and Dr Lachlan Black. Image: Supplied

Solar cells are devices that convert light energy in the form of photons into electrical energy. As it stands, solar cells aren’t operating at their maximum capacity due to substantial electrical losses associated with the direct contact of metals with silicon.  

“Transition metal oxides such as titanium oxide have many qualities that make them ideal as passivating contact layers,” Dr Lachlan Black said.  

“This isn’t a new idea, but the way in which we combined these layers has produced better results and higher operating voltages than anything previously reported.”  

The research team is hoping to develop the technology to a point where it can be applied to industrial solar cells on a large scale.  

The PV market is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with silicon solar cells contributing to 95 per cent of all commercial solar cells. They are predicted to remain dominant for the foreseeable future given their advantageous properties compared to competitors.  

“If successful, we could see our technology in almost all new solar panels installed on your roof or utility-scale solar plants,” Dr Black said.  

Some practical issues still need to be addressed before the technology can be implemented, but the PV community is already working to solve these challenges.  

“Improving the efficiency of solar cells guarantees more clean energy at a reduced cost. This not only helps to address climate change, but opens up new economic opportunities for this low-cost clean energy,” Mr Ismael said. 

The research paper is available online.  

Top image: Pixabay/Pexels

Contact the media team

Lauren Pay

Media Assistant


You may also like

Article Card Image

How plants are inspiring new ways to extract value from wastewater

ANU researchers are trying to figure out how to extract value from the world's wastewater, which is rich with precious resources.

Article Card Image

Fighting fires from space: how satellites and other tech could prevent catastrophic bushfires 

ANU researchers are using algorithms, drones and satellites to detect bushfires before they become natural disasters.

Article Card Image

Climate change is leaving African elephants desperate for water

If the situation doesn’t change, Africa – indeed, the world – may lose one of its most iconic animal species.

Subscribe to ANU Reporter

Anu Logo

+61 2 6125 5111

The Australian National University, Canberra

CRICOS Provider: 00120C

ABN: 52 234 063 906

EDX Logo
APRU Logo
IARU Logo
Group of eight Australia Logo