A student studying at the Masdar Institute took home an award during an energy conference for a poster she made about her step-cell design. Sabina Abdul Hadi was given the Best Poster Award at the 42nd edition of the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC) which was recently held in New Orleans, USA.
Hadi’s poster and design was entered into the conference’s Light Management and Avant Garde Concepts category. The PVSC is a yearly gathering and exhibit that provides research laboratories and companies the chance to showcase their latest innovations and products. The conference gathers technologists, scientists, and students from various photovoltaic organizations, companies, universities, and research facilities.
The step-cell concept that Hadi designed has the ability to increase the efficiency of solar cells. Hadi came up with the concept while researching for her doctorate thesis at the Institute Center for Microsystems or iMicro. In conducting her research, Hadi was assisted by Ammar Nayfeh who is a doctor and an associate professor at Masdar Institute. With Nayfeh acting as her mentor and supervisor, Hadi found a method that can significantly increase the efficiency of tandem solar cells. The tandem solar cells can reach efficiency rates of up to 32%. This is a major jump compared to the fact that standard silicon solar cells have average efficiency rates of only 25%.
The student focused her research on the fact that solar cells can’t harvest all of the sun’s rays that fall on their surfaces. Solar cells made from crystalline silicon which are considered to be the best in the market can only reach a maximum efficiency rate of 25%. What this means is that when the sun’s energy reaches a solar cell, only 25% of this energy is converted into usable electricity. The rest of the energy goes to waste or dissipates. With this in mind, Hadi came up with a design that can boost the efficiency rate of the solar cells for up to 32%.
Tandem solar cells have two main components that are manufactured from different materials. There’s the top cell and the bottom cell. This formation is more efficient in turning sunlight into electricity because it utilizes the solar spectrum better. Hadi and her supervisor Nayfeh improved this setup even better by increasing the electric current that is ran through the bottom cell. This substantially increases the overall efficiency of the solar cells. Hadi explained that this improvement is caused by the fact that her design exposes the bottom cell to stronger sunlight. Hadi and Nayfeh tested the design numerous times to verify its efficiency. The data they gathered proved that the design is indeed better in converting more sunlight to electricity.
Hadi’s design is not only more efficient, it’s less expensive as well compared to other high-end solar cells. According to her, production costs will go down because the design enables engineers to choose what material they are going to use in manufacturing the solar cells. In short, Hadi’s step-cell design improves efficiency while reducing production costs. The student is also hopeful that her design will open up new technologies on how to get the most out of the sun’s rays.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.