From the I’ll believe it when I see it department comes this claim.
From R&D magazine:
Throughout decades of research on solar cells, one formula has been considered an absolute limit to the efficiency of such devices in converting sunlight into electricity: Called the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit, it posits that the ultimate conversion efficiency can never exceed 34% for a single optimized semiconductor junction.
Now, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have shown that there is a way to blow past that limit as easily as today’s jet fighters zoom through the sound barrier—which was also once seen as an ultimate limit.
They have published a compelling case that the key to greater solar efficiency might be an organic dye called pentacene. More from R&D:
The principle behind the barrier-busting technique has been known theoretically since the 1960s, says Baldo, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT. But it was a somewhat obscure idea that nobody had succeeded in putting into practice. The MIT team was able, for the first time, to perform a successful “proof of principle” of the idea, which is known as singlet exciton fission. (An exciton is the excited state of a molecule after absorbing energy from a photon.)
In a standard photovoltaic (PV) cell, each photon knocks loose exactly one electron inside the PV material. That loose electron then can be harnessed through wires to provide an electrical current.
But in the new technique, each photon can instead knock two electrons loose. This makes the process much more efficient: In a standard cell, any excess energy carried by a photon is wasted as heat, whereas in the new system the extra energy goes into producing two electrons instead of one.
While today’s commercial solar panels typically have an efficiency of at most 25%, a silicon solar cell harnessing singlet fission should make it feasible to achieve efficiency of more than 30%, Baldo says—a huge leap in a field typically marked by slow, incremental progress. In solar cell research, he notes, people are striving “for an increase of a tenth of a percent.”
Full story here
External Quantum Efficiency Above 100% in a Singlet-Exciton-Fission–Based Organic Photovoltaic Cell
Daniel N. Congreve*, Jiye Lee*, Nicholas J. Thompson*, Eric Hontz, Shane R. Yost, Philip D. Reusswig, Matthias E. Bahlke, Sebastian Reineke, Troy Van Voorhis, Marc A. Baldo†
Science 19 April 2013: Vol. 340 no. 6130 pp. 334-337 DOI: 10.1126/science.1232994
Singlet exciton fission transforms a molecular singlet excited state into two triplet states, each with half the energy of the original singlet. In solar cells, it could potentially double the photocurrent from high-energy photons. We demonstrate organic solar cells that exploit singlet exciton fission in pentacene to generate more than one electron per incident photon in a portion of the visible spectrum. Using a fullerene acceptor, a poly(3-hexylthiophene) exciton confinement layer, and a conventional optical trapping scheme, we show a peak external quantum efficiency of (109 ± 1)% at wavelength λ = 670 nanometers for a 15-nanometer-thick pentacene film. The corresponding internal quantum efficiency is (160 ± 10)%. Analysis of the magnetic field effect on photocurrent suggests that the triplet yield approaches 200% for pentacene films thicker than 5 nanometers.