Boeing Spectrolab terrestrial solar cell surpasses 40% efficiency

December 8, 2006, St. Louis, MO--Boeing's wholly owned subsidiary Spectrolab has developed a solar cell, used with a concentrator, that reaches a record efficiency of 40.7%. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL; Golden, CO) verified the milestone.

"The terrestrial cell we have developed uses the same technology base as our space-based cells," said David Lillington, president of Spectrolab. "So, once qualified, they can be manufactured in very high volumes with minimal impact to production flow."

High-efficiency multijunction cells have a significant advantage over conventional silicon cells in concentrator systems because fewer solar cells are required to achieve the same power output. This technology is aimed at reducing the cost of generating electricity from solar energy as well as the cost of materials used in high-power space satellites and terrestrial applications.

"These results are particularly encouraging since they were achieved using a new class of metamorphic semiconductor materials, allowing much greater freedom in multijunction-cell design for optimal conversion of the solar spectrum," said Richard King, principal investigator of the high-efficiency solar-cell R&D effort. "The excellent performance of these materials hints at still higher efficiency in future solar cells."

Currently, Spectrolab's terrestrial concentrator cells are generating power in a 33 kW full-scale concentrator system in the Australian desert. The company recently signed multimillion dollar contracts for its high-efficiency concentrator cells and is anticipating several new contracts in the next few months.

An eye on costs
When compared to conventional high-efficiency solar cells used without concentrators, the potentially reduced cost (per quantity of power produced) of a higher-efficiency concentrator-based solar cell such as the Spectrolab cell must be balanced against the increased cost of using a solar concentrator, which consists of a parabolic, paraboloidal, or other mirror and usually a motor-driven mirror-pointing system (and often a solar-cell cooling system as well).

For many photovoltaic installations, even the greater than 40% efficiency of the Spectrolab cell--in comparison to the 15% efficiency of conventional nonconcentrator solar cells--may not be enough to offset the added cost and complexity of a solar-concentrator system. In addition, as prices of solar cells come down (as thay have been doing), the cost of a solar-concentrating and mirror-pointing system will become a larger portion of the cost of the total installation. Developments in large-scale manufacturing of solar-concentrator mirrors and mechanical components, resulting in economy of scale, will be necessary to counter this problem.

Applications in space, such as electrical power for satellites, are entirely different; here, even small reductions in weight and size add up to dramatic reductions in cost due to savings in launch costs.

Development of the Boeing Spectrolab high-efficiency concentrator-cell technology was funded by the NREL's High Performance Photovoltaics program and Spectrolab.

Most Popular Articles


Handheld Spectrometers

Spectroscopy is a powerful and versatile tool that traditionally often required a large and bulky instrument. The combination of compact optics and modern pa...

Fracking, climate change, and lasers:  new tools to reduce fugitive methane emissions

This webcast, sponsored by Hamamatsu Corporation, covers recent developments and field deployments of compact quantum-cascade-laser (QCL)-based methane senso...

Opportunities in the Mid-IR

The technology for exploiting the mid-IR is developing rapidly:  it includes quantum-cascade lasers and other sources, spectroscopic instruments of many...

Fiber Optic Sensors – Fundamentals, Principles and Applications

In this webcast, sponsored by Nufern, we focus on optical fiber sensing technology.  Fundamental concepts will be presented first, followed by the under...
White Papers

Narrow-line fiber-coupled modules for DPAL pumping

A new series of fiber coupled diode laser modules optimized for DPAL pumping is presented, featur...

Accurate LED Source Modeling Using TracePro

Modern optical modeling programs allow product design engineers to create, analyze, and optimize ...

Optical Isolators Improve Engraving Performance of Pulsed Fiber Lasers

The deleterious effects of back reflections on pulsed fiber lasers used in marking and engraving ...
Technical Digests

WAVELENGTH-SWEPT LASERS: Dispersion-tuned fiber laser sweeps over a 140 nm range for OCT

By eliminating the use of mechanical tunable filters and instead tuning by intensity-modulation i...

Keeping pace with developments in Raman spectroscopy for molecular and nanoparticle research

For demanding or custom spectroscopy solutions, care must be taken in selecting and integrating a...

HIGH-POWER FIBER LASERS: Working in the kilowatt regime

High-power materials-processing fiber lasers are available in an increasing variety of forms, as ...

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.


Laser Beamsteering Mirrors

First choice for all mirror applications: Optics Balzers designs and produces flat mirr...

Fluorescence Filter Sets

Optics Balzers fluorescence filter sets include excitation and emission filters (bandpa...

Westech Optical Mirrors

Westech provides stock and custom mirrors. Spherical and flat mirrors are the most popu...


Technodiamant USA Inc

Manufactures quality diamond tools including "Controlled Waviness" tools for precision ...

CVI Laser Optics

Provides solutions for semiconductor, biotechnology, materials processing and basic res...

Cirrus Photonics LLC

Provides innovative light source and optical systems solutions to address demanding tec...

Social Activity

Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS