Assessing Possibilities and Limits for Solar Cells



What are the solar cell efficiencies that we can strive towards? We show here that several simple criteria, based on cell and module performance data, serve to evaluate and compare all types of today's solar cells. Analyzing these data allows to gauge in how far significant progress can be expected for the various cell types and, most importantly from both the science and technology points of view, if basic bounds, beyond those known today, may exist, that can limit such progress. This is important, because half a century after Shockley and Queisser (SQ) presented limits, based on detailed balance calculations for single absorber solar cells, those are still held to be the only ones, we need to consider; most efforts to go beyond SQ are directed towards attempts to circumvent them, primarily via smart optics, or optoelectronics. After formulating the criteria and analyzing known loss mechanisms, use of such criteria suggests–additional limits for newer types of cells, Organic and Dye-Sensitized ones, and their siblings,–prospects for progress and–further characterization needs, all of which should help focusing research and predictions for the future.