Suntech Pluto solar PV cells achieve 20.3% efficiency

The world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, Suntech Solar, has achieved a new level of efficiency in one of its products. Its proprietary Pluto technology was demonstrated to hit an efficiency of 20.3% (sunlight–>usable electricity) in laboratory conditions using its standard commercial-grade polycrystalline silicon solar PV cells. The company expects to reach an efficiency of 21% within the next year, and is planning on commercialising the technology.

Standard silicon cells vs cells using Pluto technology
Standard silicon cells (r) vs cells using Pluto technology (l). Note the fineness of the conductive ‘fingers’ in the Pluto cell.

High Pluto solar cell efficiency thanks to R&D

The company credits the improvements in efficiency to its ongoing research collaborations with research institutes world-wide. Most notably, Suntech collaborates with founder Zhengrong Shi’s alma mater, the University of New South Wales, which is renowned for its Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence. Ongoing research and development ventures have yielded Suntech’s signature Pluto cell, which uses multiple ultra-thin busbar ‘fingers’ to pick up more electricity from the sun than conventional cells. The most recent advance came about thanks to a redesign of the rear surface of the Pluto cell, allowing higher efficiency using the same materials.

The fact that the company is making the improvements on a time-tested technology (polycrystalline silicon), as opposed to developing a newer or less well-developed technology (such as CIGS thin film) indicates that it intends to deploy the panels on a broad scale at affordable prices.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Source: PV magazine

James Martin II