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US solar technology breaks solar panel efficiency records

Government researchers verify 23.5% efficiency of Alta Devices’ solar panel

Alta's solar cell has much thinner film than conventional cells
Made with gallium arsenide, Alta's solar cell has much thinner film than conventional cells

US solar firm Alta Devices has achieved 23.5 per cent efficiency of its solar panel technology, verified by the government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This makes it the “highest solar panel efficiency achieved yet”, the company claimed.

The news comes after US company Semprius claimed to have reached efficiencies of 33.9 per cent for its concentrated solar modules, but these findings are yet to be verified by NREL.

Alta is still in the process of commercialising its technology, which harnesses gallium arsenide (GaAs) conductor compounds to generate electricity at low light levels.

The company said: “Alta chose to focus on GaAs because of its intrinsic efficiency advantages as well as its ability to generate electricity at high temperatures and in low light. This means that Alta's panels have substantially higher energy density than other technologies, generating more kWhs energy over the course of a year in real life conditions.”

GaAs are known for being expensive to produce, but Alta developed a manufacturing technique that can produce extremely thin layers of the compound that are a fraction of the thickness of previous GaAs solar cells. By using very thin devices with a high energy density, the company was able to keep costs down.