The Energy Department on January 25 announced a new $12 million funding opportunity to develop innovative, ultra-efficient solar devices that will help close the gap with the theoretical efficiency limit. That limit is defined as the highest potential percentage of sunlight that can be converted directly into electricity. Currently, a sizable gap still exists between the efficiency of laboratory and commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and the predicted maximum efficiencies of different solar cell materials. Accelerating breakthroughs in solar cell conversion efficiency will help continue to lower the overall cost of solar power.
The new initiative—the Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency II (FPACE II)—aims to accelerate record-breaking conversion efficiencies that will close the gap with this theoretical limit for a variety of PV cells, including silicon-based technologies and thin-film materials such as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselenide. The new funding opportunity builds on the SunShot Initiative’s FPACE I projects, awarded in September 2011, which are aimed at eliminating the gap between the efficiencies of best prototype cells achieved in the laboratory and the efficiencies of typical cells produced on manufacturing lines.
In the current solicitation, FPACE II seeks proposals from collaborative teams of researchers from national laboratories, universities, and industry that can develop materials model systems and fabricate prototype devices that achieve efficiencies near the theoretical limit. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the Funding Opportunity Announcement.