Anti-Reflective Coating Boosts Efficiency of Solar Cells

October 2, 2012

Scientist have for a long time been working on how to improve efficiency in solar cells. A lot has happened since photovoltaics were first introduced. A new startup company from Australia, Brisbane Materials, claims that it has developed an anti-reflective coating material that improves the efficiency of traditional solar cells by as much as 3 percent. 

The structure of certain materials can “trap” sunlight. Photons bounce around like pinballs in the upper surface of the solar cell, which generates more current. Not too different from how algae can be used to improve solar cell efficiency. Anti-reflective coating is not anything new. In fact, anti-reflective coating is already a part of standard solar cells. Brisbane Materials has simply developed an improved version.

The upper layer in the image above is the new anti-reflective coating.  It goes on top of a sheet of glass right above the solar cell. The tiny holes you can see on the surface are actually air pockets, which along with the glass substrate, reduce reflection of sunlight by as much 75 percent according to laboratory results.

One neat thing about the new invention is that the “porous” layer of glass is not formed onto the glass substrate through an expensive high-heat process, as you would expect when combining liquid with solids, but it actually forms at room temperature.

The development of the new technology started already back in 2005 at the University of Queensland in Australia. Brisbane Materials has just closed its AUD $5 million ($5.2 million) Series A funding round that will help bring the company bring the technology to their first customers. The company has received AUD $2.5 million in financial backing from the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund (SCREF) – the first investment of the $200M fund consisting of a partnership between the Australian Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Softbank China Venture Capital (SBCVC).

An improved efficiency of three percent is quite significant in the solar power industry. Maybe a few percentage points might contribute to lower solar panel costs a couple of years down the line.

Mathias Aarre Mæhlum is a freelance blogger and in his spare time works for Energy Informative. This is a site where people can learn more about solar panels and other green technologies including wind turbines and geothermal heating/cooling systems. Homeowners will find a lot of tips on how to improve energy efficiency in their home.  

Image credits: Brisbane Materials