A start-up company developed the most effective silicon solar cells that use copper and have an efficiency of 25.54%.
SunDrive Solar an Australian company initiated in 2015, created silicon solar cells that have efficiency of 25.54% which is certified by the Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin (ISFH) as the most efficient solar cells in the world, breaking the record of 25.26%. The company used copper instead of silver to get the electric current from the cells as copper is very affordable raw material compared to silver and abundantly available. The use of copper in the solar cells could lower the cost of solar modules if this technology is developed further.
Silver is used in every solar panel as it is the main material. Solar panel manufacturing holds around 20% of the yearly consumption of precious metal globally, and it is expected to grow in the near future as the development of new high-efficiency solar cells is increasing that requires around three times more silver. Copper may not have the same efficiency as silver and it does not hold on to the surface of the solar cell as good as silver, however, the team of SunDrive found a way to use copper in the solar cells instead of silver. With the government funding, the team further scaled its innovation to a commercial module from an industrial-sized cell in order to fit it on the rooftops. These cells were put for testing at IFSH, Germany, who declared it the new world-record of the efficiency of the solar cells.
Solar cells are ecological, however, they are built using precious metal such as silver which is a limited resource, and mining of silver produces more emissions which makes it harmful for environment. Whereas, copper is abundant and copper-plated solar modules would be easier to recycle in the future. The innovation of copper based solar cells is a notable step forward in the industry.