Solar energy is the most abundantly available renewable energy source before us. Although solar energy has been around for a relatively long period now, the technology behind it still lags behind. We have not been able to improve the efficiency of a solar panel by much. Now scientists have found a reason for this.
They have identified that a material defect in the silicon used to manufacture solar cells. They believe it could be responsible for Light Induced Degradation (LID) or the 2 percent efficiency drop that solar cells experience in its first few hours of usage. This is a breakthrough discovery as for almost 40 years the defect went unseen even after all the research that has been done towards improving the efficiency of solar panels.
The drop equals significant cost in gigawatts as it gets multiplied by the increasing number of solar panels around the world. According to Science Alert, the estimated loss in efficiency worldwide from LID is estimated to equate to more energy than can be generated by the UK’s 15 nuclear power plants.
The team behind the study used an electrical and optical technique called deep-level transient spectroscopy (DLTS) to find weaknesses in the silicon. They found that ss the electronic charge in the solar cells gets transformed from sunlight, the flow of electrons gets trapped; in turn, that reduces the level of electrical power that can be produced. The defect activates when the solar panel gets heated by the sunlight
“We’ve proved the defect exists, it’s now an engineering fix that is needed,” said one of the researchers, Iain Crowe from the University of Manchester. They have also noticed that heating the material in the dar to remove traps from silicon, reverses the degradation.
Various groups have been actively trying to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Now that the reason for LID has been identified scientists hope to further improve the efficiency of these panels. It could, in turn, improve the output of our sustainable energy systems and play a vital role in our fight against climate change. Any method to improve renewable sources will be welcomed wholeheartedly by the ever so power-hungry humankind.