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Spectrolab Recaptures Cell Record

Elevated competition can even be seen in Spectrolab’s August 26 announcement that it has regained the record for the highest-efficiency triple junction cell. Beyond the irony that this coincided with Solar Systems’ problems coming to light, it demonstrates a strong emerging transatlantic rivalry.

The Sylmar, California company’s 41.6 percent conversion efficiency cells have overtaken the 41.1 percent achieved by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in January this year. This marks a rapid acceleration in efficiency improvements, after the 40.7 percent record that Spectrolab achieved in December 2006 had only been pushed to 40.8 percent by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratories by August 2008.

The record may change hands again soon, as the Fraunhofer team, which is transferring its designs to compatriot commercial cell producer Azur Space, believes it can push beyond 42 percent. Rather than introducing novel technology, Spectrolab achieved its latest record by optimising the existing lattice-matched germanium/GaAs/GaInP cells that it produces today in high volumes.

The company credits the record to multiple improvements in wafer processing that reduce the area of the cell shadowed by its metal contact grid, and improve series resistance. President David Lillington says that this “will be incorporated quickly and successfully into our production line”.

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