Uni-Solar breaks thin-film efficiency record

United Solar, also known as Uni-Solar, announced earlier this week that it broke yet another efficiency record for thin-film solar.

The company, a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, broke its own record this week with a 16.3-percent efficiency. United set the previous record as well—a 15.4-percent efficiency earlier in the year.

“These are lab efficiencies,” said Michael Schostak, spokesman for Uni-Solar. “We hope to be able to commercialize that 16 percent efficiency within the next couple years.”

He said United will release a 12 percent efficient thin-film solar module to the commercial market this year, but that it will take some time to scale up the high efficiency modules the company now knows it can produce, Schostak said.

United is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to verify its efficiency claims and to access resources that will help take the new technology to a commercial scale.

United uses its special and recently patented nano-crystaline silicon technology to achieve these super high efficiencies, Schostak said.

The new world record efficiency was achieved using a triple-junction method. Schostak said the trick to scaling the technology up will be getting all three layers to use the nano-crystalline technology and interconnect.

“That triple-junction cell structure is what gave us the ability to get such a high efficiency,” Schostak said. “But the hard part is getting all of the layers to be nano-crystalline.”

The 12 percent efficiency cells that Uni-Solar is releasing to the market now are already among the highest-efficiency solar thin-film cells available, and the company has had success in the solar industry.

Parent company Energy Conversion Devices has arms that sell, distribute and install rooftop residential and commercial solar arrays. It also owns Ovonic Battery Company, the inventor and worldwide licensor of nickel-metal-hydride battery technology and advanced lithium-ion cathode materials.

The company is working in both the energy production and energy storage fields.

“This represents another substantial milestone for the company as we continue to develop our technology through a focus on conversion efficiency,” Jay Knoll, Interim President of Energy Conversion Devices, said in a statement. “Our core technology can now reach conversion efficiencies of 16.3 percent in the lab, an increase from 15.4 percent, leading the way in thin-film silicon technology development.”

Image courtesy of Uni-Solar.