One way forward for solar cells might be polymers which are now achieving more than 10% efficiency. Polymer based technology could be set to revolutionize the solar market as the cost of producing cells could be cheap and the cells themselves are more amenable to being flexible and able to be placed in a range of applications and in a range of different markets. A solar cell made by the University of California, Los Angeles converts just under 11% of sunlight into useful every, up for just under 9%, the previous record. This is still a little way off the silicon solar cells which can reach just under 20% efficiency.
The plastic solar cell comprises two layers that work with different bands of light—a polymer that works with visible light and another one that works with infrared light. This is because the solar spectrum has a range of wavelengths and there isn’t a single material that can capture it all. The aim is reach efficiencies of 15% which in reality in the working environment would yield around 10% fixed to a typical roof, losing a third when tested outside the lab.