Fraunhofer researchers with the new solar cells.
Fraunhofer researchers with the new solar cells.

This is only the second time in history a research organisation has won the prize, which rewards research that has a high potential for future applications in economy and society.

 The research, led by Dr Andreas Bett involves the development of concentrator solar cells which have almost double the efficiency levels of conventional silicon-based cells. This was possible by stacking three different solar cells monolithically on top of each other on a substrate of germanium, creating a triple-junction solar cell structure better adapted to the spectrum of wavelengths found in sunlight, thus using almost the entire solar spectrum for energy production. A metamorphic triple-junction solar cell structure consisting of III-V compound semiconductors was formed, and achieved a record efficiency of 41.1%.

The new cells are applied in concentrator modules also developed by the researchers at Fraunhofer ISE. The result is a new high concentration photovoltaic technology.

For the development of metamorphic triple-junction solar cells, the team has been closely collaborating for years with AZUR Space Solar Power in Heilbronn, Germany, a leading European manufacturer of solar cells for space. This partner is aiming to bring the highly efficient solar cells to the market by 2011.
“The EARTO Innovation Prize is awarded to RTOs, research and technology organisations, in recognition of their contribution to an innovation of significant economic and social impact,” said EARTO president, Professor Erkki KM Leppävuori. “[S]ubmitted projects were excellent examples of what RTOs do best: relevant and targeted innovations creating growth and addressing the Grand Challenges of our time.”