News Article

Scientists Improve Efficiency Of CIGS Thin-film Solar Cells To 20.8%

The success of the Stuttgart-based scientists substantially surpasses their own record for CIGS solar cells of 20.3% on glass
In the race for higher power yields, the Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, ZSW) has set a new world record. The Stuttgart researchers have improved the efficiency of CIGS thin-film solar cells to 20.8%. This figure is a record for converting sunlight into electrical energy and, for the first time, it exceeds the efficiency of market-dominating multicrystalline silicon solar cells. The new research findings from Baden-Württemberg are likely to further reduce the cost of solar power in future.

The record solar cell, made from copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), has an area of 0.5 square centimetres – a usual size for experimental cells. It was manufactured in a laboratory coating system using a simultaneous evaporation process, which in principle can be transferred into industrial production processes.

“Our new record shows that CIGS thin-film technology still has untapped technological and economic potential," says a delighted Prof. Dr. Michael Powalla, board member and head of the photovoltaics division at ZSW.

The success of the Stuttgart-based scientists substantially surpasses their own record for CIGS solar cells of 20.3% on glass.

More significantly, however, this value beats the peak performance of 20.4% for multicrystalline silicon cells. Market-dominating multicrystalline cells have held onto their advantage for nearly 30 years – now CIGS is in the lead. The results have been officially confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

 A research team at ZSW has set a new world record for CIGS cells. Photo: ZSW

ZSW is now working to transfer the optimised CIGS process to modules. “It may take a little time for the higher efficiency to be reflected in production," Powalla notes. “But 16 to 18% in commercial modules is possible over the next few years.

" Market-standard CIGS modules currently attain efficiencies of 14 to 15% – a module always has lower efficiency than an individual solar cell.

ZSW’s success is the result of intensive research activities that have been supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry and the state of Baden-Württemberg for many years. With the recent achievement, the electronic quality of the solar cell has been enhanced. The world record underscores the state’s capacity for innovation and will help technologies “made in Baden-Württemberg" to compete against Asian rivals. One example is ZSW’s industrial partner Manz AG, based in Reutlingen, which offers a turnkey production line for manufacturing modules using the ZSW technology.

Compared to standard solar cells, thin-film photovoltaics saves materials and energy since the coating used is just micrometres thick. This is a considerable cost reduction factor for future production. The experts all agree that the new record demonstrates the great potential of CIGS technology for even more cost-effective and efficient photovoltaics.


AngelTech Live III: Join us on 12 April 2021!

AngelTech Live III will be broadcast on 12 April 2021, 10am BST, rebroadcast on 14 April (10am CTT) and 16 April (10am PST) and will feature online versions of the market-leading physical events: CS International and PIC International PLUS a brand new Silicon Semiconductor International Track!

Thanks to the great diversity of the semiconductor industry, we are always chasing new markets and developing a range of exciting technologies.

2021 is no different. Over the last few months interest in deep-UV LEDs has rocketed, due to its capability to disinfect and sanitise areas and combat Covid-19. We shall consider a roadmap for this device, along with technologies for boosting its output.

We shall also look at microLEDs, a display with many wonderful attributes, identifying processes for handling the mass transfer of tiny emitters that hold the key to commercialisation of this technology.

We shall also discuss electrification of transportation, underpinned by wide bandgap power electronics and supported by blue lasers that are ideal for processing copper.

Additional areas we will cover include the development of GaN ICs, to improve the reach of power electronics; the great strides that have been made with gallium oxide; and a look at new materials, such as cubic GaN and AlScN.

Having attracted 1500 delegates over the last 2 online summits, the 3rd event promises to be even bigger and better – with 3 interactive sessions over 1 day and will once again prove to be a key event across the semiconductor and photonic integrated circuits calendar.

So make sure you sign up today and discover the latest cutting edge developments across the compound semiconductor and integrated photonics value chain.



Search the news archive

To close this popup you can press escape or click the close icon.
Register - Step 1

You may choose to subscribe to the Compound Semiconductor Magazine, the Compound Semiconductor Newsletter, or both. You may also request additional information if required, before submitting your application.

Please subscribe me to:


You chose the industry type of "Other"

Please enter the industry that you work in:
Please enter the industry that you work in:
Live Event