Tiny photovoltaic elements reach high levels of efficiency

The use of photovoltaics - transforming sunlight into electricity - is well under way in Germany. The branch is booming, with growth rates of more than 30%. Nearly 90% of today's solar cells use silicon as a semiconductor,
however, an established record with another material has recently attracted attention: researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE (Institut fur Solare Energiesysteme) have developed a solar cell from III-V semiconductors with which they have achieved a record level of efficiency in Europe of 35%. The element is only 0,031 cm2 and consists of materials from the third and fifth columns of the periodic classification.

To reach efficiencies of more than 30%, it is necessary to stack solar cells of different materials. "Our record cell is a triple monolithic solar cell," says Andreas Bett, project manager at Fraunhofer ISE. "She is made of
Gallium Indium Phosphide, Gallium Arsenide and Germanium (GaInP / GaAs / Ge) and is manufactured in a single process. The use of three different materials increases the efficiency of the cell, the different parts of the solar spectrum are transformed in a way
This type of cell, and especially its high degree of efficiency, is of utmost importance for space research.The company RWE Space Solar Power of Heilbronn already manufactures cells of this type - on surfaces Much more
important - from a process developed by the Fraunhofer Institute ISE. The solar cell also has terrestrial applications. "We are placing the tiny cells in FLATCON (TM) hub modules," says Gerhard Willeke, director of the Solar Cells Department at the ISE Institute. "Thanks to this technology, we can obtain photovoltaic systems with efficiencies above 25%".

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First demonstrations of FLATCON (TM) modules as well as new cells are being developed at Fraunhofer ISE as part of a research project of the Federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU).

contacts:
- Dr. Andreas Bett, Fraunhofer ISE - tel: + 49 761 4588 5257, fax: + 49 761
4588 9275 - email:
andreas.bett@ise.fraunhofer.de
Sources: Depeche IDW, press release of Fraunhofer Institute ISE,
18/02/2005
Editor: Nicolas Condette,
nicolas.condette@diplomatie.gouv.fr

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