Engineers from the University of New South Wales have developed a new way to improve the quality of low-grade silicon, paving the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels.
UNSW professor Stuart Wenham said in a statement the team had discovered a way to better correct deficiencies in silicon, which is the most expensive component in solar cells.
“This process will allow lower-quality silicon to outperform solar cells made from better-quality materials,” he said.
“By using lower-quality silicon to achieve higher efficiencies, we can enable significant cost reductions.”
The new process hinges on the ability to control the 'charge' state of hydrogen atoms in silicon.
The charge state determines how easily hydrogen can move through the material, which is important for correcting defects.
“We have seen a 10,000 times improvement in the mobility of the hydrogen and we can control the hydrogen so it chemically bonds to things like defects and contaminants, making these inactive,” Wenham said.
UNSW said it currently had eight industry partners interested in commercialising the technology, and it was working with manufacturers to help implement the new process.