A flaw detected in solar panel technology is on its way to being fixed, which will help improve solar panel efficiency, Science Alert reports.
That defect, which was found by researchers in the silicon used to produce solar cells, might be the culprit causing the two percent efficiency decline that solar panels experience in the first hours of light (called Light Induced Degradation, or LID).
The defect was detected in a recent study, where researchers used an electrical and optical technique called deep-level transient spectroscopy to find weaknesses in solar panel silicon. “Here’s what the DLTS analysis found: As the electronic charge in the solar cells gets transformed from sunlight, the flow of electrons gets trapped; in turn, that reduces the level of electrical power that can be produced,” Science Alert says.
Additionally, the defect lies dormant until a solar panel is heated; researchers found that heating the material in the dark appears to reverse LID. They also found that a higher quality silicon had charge carriers (or electrons that carry the photo energy, Science Alert says), with an extended lifespan, which may indicate another link to LID that can be solved. “We’ve proved the defect exists, it’s now an engineering fix that is needed,” one of the researchers, Iain Crowe from the University of Manchester, told Science Alert.
Once this issue is fixed, the amount energy lost in the initial power up of solar panels will be decreased. “In fact, the estimated loss in efficiency worldwide from LID is estimated to equate to more energy than can be generated by the UK’s 15 nuclear power plants,” Science Alert says.
Science Alert also expects that solar farms across the globe will benefit from this discovery. That initial “two percent in efficiency may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that these solar panels are now responsible for delivering a large and exponentially growing fraction of the world’s total energy needs, it’s a significant loss of electricity generating capacity,” researcher Tony Peaker, from the University of Manchester in the UK, told Science Alert.