Ever since serious scientific thinking went into improving the efficiency of photovoltaic energy conversion more than 50 years ago, thermodynamics has been used to assess the limits to performance, guiding advances in materials science and photovoltaic technology. Photovoltaics have advanced considerably, resulting in single-junction solar cells with a record efficiency of 28.3% and multi-junction cells with an efficiency of 43.5%. As impressive as these advances are, these record efficiencies and also today's manufactured cell efficiencies in the 10-18% range fall far short of the thermodynamic limits. Why such a large gap? There is no fundamental reason, and in this lecture, I will discuss photonic methods for systematically addressing the thermodynamic efficiency losses in current photovoltaics that can enable a next phase of photovoltaic science and engineering - ultrahigh efficiency photovoltaics. This development takes advantage of recent advances in the control of light at the nanometer and micron length scales, coupled with emerging materials fabrication approaches, and will allow the development of solar cells with efficiencies in the 50-70% range.
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speaker: Harry A. Atwater (California Institute of Technology, USA)