Aussie Firm Stirs Market with Silver-free Cell at Record 25.54% Efficiency

Sydney-based solar technology startup SunDrive has reportedly made a breakthrough, producing a a silver-free commercial-size silicon solar PV cell with a record breaking efficiency of 25.54%.

The previous record was held by LONGi for its commercial-size monocrystalline heterojunction (HJT) solar cell that achieved an efficiency of 25.26% during testing at ISFH earlier this year.

The German Institute for Solar Energy Research (ISFH) has confirmed the new world record for the efficiency at which SunDrive’s solar cells convert sunlight to electricity. The achievement is significant for another reason besides efficiency: the cell was produced with copper rather than expensive silver, which raises hope for cost reductions in future manufacturing.

SunDrive made the announcement on Linkedin: “SunDrive has officially set a new world record for a commercial size silicon solar cell. A proud milestone for the team that worked incredibly hard to achieve this.”

The company was founded by UNSW graduates Vince Allen and David Hu in 2015 to accelerate solar cell development in Australia. “We’ve grown from a small PhD project in a garage to producing some of the most efficient solar cells ever made in Australia,” they say. Its investors include Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) (which provided around $2.2 million in funding) and Blackbird Ventures.

SunDrive initially aims to use its technology to focus on the rooftop solar sector, where space is at a premium and higher efficiency cells can produce greater amounts of energy for a given footprint. In recent time, Australia — one of the sunniest places on the planet — has emerged as a world leader in the rooftop solar market. As of now, households have installed 14 GW of solar panels. By 2025, this figure is set to increase by 8.9 GW.

Today solar is still niche, contributing to only 3% of global electricity generation. “If we are to realise a world where our main energy source is the sun, then we need to look beyond the design of the traditional solar cell,” says the company. To address the problem, it is developing a new breed of solar cells that are:

  • More efficient: Leads to fewer solar panels needed, reducing installation costs.
  • ​Free of precious metals: Today’s solar cells contain precious metals which are both expensive and scarce.
  • ​Less material intensive: Saves on material costs – achieved by reducing the solar cell thickness.
  • ​Less prone to degradation: Solar cells degrade with time and temperature – its important to minimise this.
  • ​Less energy intensive to produce: Saves on manufacturing costs and reduces environmental impact.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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