Solar cell breakthrough: 40% efficiency achieved

If that silly Hummer O2 concept vehicle we just saw didn't sate your appetite for environmental friendliness, try this on for size: researchers at Boeing-Spectrolab have just succeeded in building a multi-junction solar cell that achieves an incredible 40.7% efficiency, or -- to the best of our knowledge -- about twice that of the reigning champ in this space. To put this Department of Energy-backed breakthrough in perspective, it was less than two months ago that Silicon Valley-based SunPower announced a 22% efficient cell, and even that model was claimed to produce 50% more power over a given space than previous iterations. In case you're unfamiliar with multi-junction cells -- no shame in that game -- they can best be described as being composed of several layers, with each slice capturing only a portion of the solar spectrum; this method of optical concentration is what has allowed cells to surpass the 12% to 18% efficiency barrier faced by most traditional modules. In conclusion, while this is certainly an encouraging development, we remain somewhat skeptical about its potential for real-world implementation: once Big Oil gets wind of this new tech, it will likely "disappear" just as quickly as that guy who invented a car that runs on water, man.

[Via Slashdot]