No, this is not a record for all types of solar cells. As you can see in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) chart below, multi-junction solar cells take top spot in when it comes to solar cell efficiency records. However, when it comes to two-junction (aka dual junction) solar cells, Alta Devices is now #1 at 30.8%, as verified by NREL.
Alta Devices writes that the record “has resulted from the company’s first implementation of a new generation ‘dual junction’ solar cell technology which augments the company’s ‘single junction’ technology.”
Where Are Alta Devices’ Solar Cells Actually Competitive, Though?
Of course, such solar cells are still unable to compete with conventional solar cells in most applications (while conventional solar cells are less efficient, they are also much cheaper). However, in applications where space is very limited, Alta Devices comes out on top. The company notes that “applying Alta’s highly efficient, very thin and flexible mobile power technology to consumer devices can extend the battery life of everyday products such as smartphones, tablets, keyboards, mice, remote controls, and more.”
“We are changing the way solar technology is used,” said Chris Norris, president and CEO of Alta Devices. “With our technology, enough energy can be generated from sunlight to effectively power devices in ways not previously possible. We are working with a number of customers who are designing their mobile products to increase battery life; and in some cases, we can provide enough energy to eliminate the need to plug into the electric grid.”
To play with the battery life improvements that can come with Alta Devices’ solar technology, check out the company’s Battery Life Calculator for smartphones and tablets. “According to the calculator, a typical outdoor worker could realize 80 percent more battery life each day for their mobile phone,” Alta Devices notes. “Or a student can get over 60 percent more battery life for his or her tablet device. These results can be achieved with minimal weight or form-factor penalty on the device design.”
Of course, the more a user is outdoors, the better the result will be. I haven’t yet seen that such solar technology has a very significant, or even positive, net energy effect. Quite simply, smartphones and tablets require very little electricity. But let me know if I’m wrong!
But Alta Devices is currently shipping its single-junction solar technology, so it’s clear that there is market demand for the technology.
Alta Devices Isn’t New To Solar Records
Alta Devices is apt to point out that it isn’t new to solar records. It has been setting records in solar efficiency since 2010. And its long-term efficiency target is actually far higher than 30.8% — it’s 38%. We’ll see how long the company takes to get there (or at least close to that target), and we’ll continue to post updated when new solar records are set.
Alta Devices’ Unique Technology
If you’re a technical dude or gal, I assume you might want a little more info on Alta Devices’ technology itself. Here’s more from the company:
“Alta Devices pioneered the world’s highest efficiency single junction solar technology by using a number of breakthrough approaches to implementing Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) for solar cells. The company’s new dual junction technology builds on that basic GaAs approach, but implements a second junction (or layer) with Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP) as the absorber on top of the base cell. Because InGaP uses high-energy photons more efficiently, the new dual junction cell generates more electricity from the same amount of light than a single junction device.”