A friend of mine who works in the solar field told me not to expect any big breakthroughs in solar cell efficiency. I hope his wrong, but this new record kind of confirms what he's been saying for a while: the raunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has hit 41.1% of efficiency, beating the previous 40.7$ record held by Spectrolab. Weirdly enough I found another record at 42.8% – most likely under different test conditions.
According to Gizmag, "The breakthrough... involved the use of sunlight concentrated by a factor of 454 and focused onto a small 5 mm? multi-junction solar cell...". Translated: this wasn't performed outdoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
To be fair, it seems really hard to make progress in this field. Most commercial applications can only dream of achieving these efficiency levels (they stand at 22% or so), and a whole segment of the industry has decided to focus on making the panel much (4X?) cheaper, even if that means losing some efficiency. The final cost per Watt is what matters (the most).
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