Malachite Technologies, a startup-company based in San Francisco, California, has been working on how to improve solar cell performance by using higher-efficiency semi-conductors.
Their method involves placing layers of gallium-arsenide on top of the silicon, which according to their calculations, boost the maximum theoretical output of solar cells to 38%. In other words, 38% of the solar energy that hits the cell is directly turned into electrical power – about the double of the best solar modules on the market today.
The materials in the new solar cell are of the semiconductor type III-V, which typically is dependent on rare materials such as indium and gallium. Today`s record efficiency for a silicon/III-V tandem solar cell is 30%.
Malachite Technologies recently won the renewable energy category at Cleantech Open for their processes and hardware that enables solar manufacturers to upgrade their solar panels with silicon/II-V solar cells.
Robert Weiss, one of the minds behind Malachite Technologies, and former CTO of thin-film manufacturer DayStar Technologies, says they need $2 million in funding to create a workable design, and then another $10 million to create the first prototype.
Malachite Technologies is not the only company that intends to push solar cell efficiency to new levels. In fact, every week there`s at least one or two companies that claim they`re sitting on groundbreaking designs that supposedly will change the face of the solar industry forever. Researchers are working on everything from algae enhanced solar cells to robot trackers.
Great looking designs on paper and carefully estimated theoretical calculations are not the only things that are needed to spur growth. There has to be a potential when it comes to mass-production. Without it, the new solar cells will never be capable of competing against thin-film or the crystalline silicon-based veterans.
It will be interesting to follow Malachite Technologies in the coming time. I bet it won`t be long before the company announces who`s funding their new technology. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, Malachite Technologies` solar cells have succeed in reducing solar panels cost.