A new partnership will see solar engineers from the University of New South Wales pushing to break their own efficiency record.

A collaborative effort has been launched between UNSW and the Arizona State University (ASU) to achieve a conversion efficiency rate of 29 per cent for silicon solar cells. The current record stands at 25 per cent, achieved by UNSW in 2008.

UNSW has been asked to help out the ASU team after it was awarded a US$3.5 million grant from the US Government’s SunShot Initiative, aimed at making solar PV energy compete in price with other forms of electricity by 2020.

“These are the some of the most cutting-edge solar cell and physics groups in the United States and Europe and we’re delighted to be working with them,” says Dr Richard Corkish, Head of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.

“We will be sharing physical resources and ideas, and I’m hoping we can collectively come up with something much bigger than each of our research groups could achieve on our own.”

The project will demonstrate new device structures for ultra-thin silicon solar cells, to approach the theoretical limit for solar power conversion with silicon cells.

UNSW is an official collaborator on the grant, along with MIT, Caltech and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The Australian team’s efforts will be led by Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, and will be coordinated through the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAP).