Japanese researchers at Kaneka Corporation have created solar panels that have a photo conversion rate of a whopping 26 percent.

Solar panels are becoming cheaper but what about their efficiency?

Solar power is a peculiar thing: solar panels are becoming cheaper these days (of course, everything is relative), but their efficiency hasn’t seen much progress. Academic experiments have demonstrated that solar arrays are capable of capturing up to 40 percent of the sun’s energy, but in theory, consumer solar cells based on silicon can only go up to about 30 percent. And that’s only in theory.

So in reality, the efficiency of consumer panels is even lower than that, low-20s being considered very good. Efficiency is important for obvious reasons: first, it lowers the cost of installation, a process that can be prohibitively expensive. Not only that, the more sunlight it captures, the more sustainable energy it creates.

That’s why Kaneka Corporation’s latest announcement is an exciting one.

Researchers at Kaneka break record

Researchers at Kaneka Corporation, a Japanese chemical manufacturer, have announced solar panels that boast a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent. That’s significantly higher than most “good” panels; in fact, it broke the previous record of 25.6 percent and is closer to the theoretical 30 percent than ever.

The researchers have added that they were able to further optimize it to obtain an even higher 26.6 percent, a result that’s officially been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab. Although the team says that these panels are not quite yet ready for commercial use, these figures mean significant implications.

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