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China sets world record in solar cell efficiency

Solar firm Pluto cell technology has 20.3% efficiency using standard silicon wafers

Sun Tech’s technology has set a world record in solar cell efficiency
Sky’s the limit: Suntech’s technology has set a world record in solar cell efficiency

China has set a world record in solar cell production efficiency. China solar firm Suntech Power, the world's largest producer of solar panels has announced that its industry-leading Pluto cell technology has set a world record 20.3 per cent efficiency for a production cell using standard commercial-grade p-type silicon wafers. 

Developed by Suntech's research and technology development team, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, the incremental innovation in Pluto cell technology underscores Suntech's investment in R&D that delivers what is claimed to be the best solar technology to its customers at an affordable price. 

Stuart Wenham is Suntech's chief technology officer, and director of the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales. He said: “This technology breakthrough marks another critical milestone in our effort to improve solar cell efficiency, which will ultimately make solar competitive with fossil fuels.

“Technology innovation is imbued in Suntech's DNA, and as a global solar technology leader, our more than 400 R&D professionals around the world, including Australia, are committed to continually improve how we harness solar energy," he added.

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore has independently confirmed the 20.3% efficiency of the improved Pluto cell technology, a significant improvement over the 19.6% best cell efficiency of the first generation Pluto cell technology. With further optimisation, the efficiency of the improved Pluto cell technology is projected to reach 21.0% in the next six to 12 months.

One of the key improvements for the Pluto cell technology is the incorporation of similar high-efficiency characteristics of the record-holding PERL cell technology in the conventional Pluto cell manufacturing process. These act to improve the rear surface design of a conventional Pluto cell, primarily by reducing the metal/silicon interface area while keeping the remaining non-contacted area well-passivated. In addition, Suntech has introduced process changes that minimize the use of high temperatures, which make it possible to apply the high efficiency processes to the most commonly used commercial wafers. 

Following the laboratory success of the improved Pluto cell technology, Suntech is now focusing on commercialising the technology. Suntech will advise when this technology is available in future releases of Suntech solar panels. 

This new record for crystalline silicon solar cells follows the recent announcement by a team of researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and Suntech on the development of the world's most efficient broadband nanoplasmonic solar cells.

Advanced cell and module technology developments are a hallmark of Suntech's success in leading solar technology innovation. This latest breakthrough reflects the results of an effective collaboration between Suntech and research institutes worldwide to commercialise innovative technology. Suntech will maintain and extend this collaboration through Suntech R&D Australia Pty, established in 2011, where project activities target the manufacturing implementation of advanced cell technologies.