Researchers Claim Breaking 20% Efficiency Barrier for Thin-Film Solar Panels

The National Renewable Energy Lab independently certified the record value


A team of researchers from AVANCIS, a solar module manufacturer in Munich, has achieved a new record for thin-film modules using CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) technology by breaking the 20% efficiency barrier for CIGS thin-film modules measuring 30 cm x 30 cm.

The earlier efficiency record, also set by AVANCIS, has been surpassed by 0.5%. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has independently certified the record value.

The certified efficiency of 20.3% represents a significant milestone for CIGS technology and paves the way for integrating photovoltaic systems into modern architecture and sustainable construction.

The development was accomplished using an encapsulated CIGS-based thin-film module with integrated series interconnection.

The Methodology 

The company’s researchers made essential improvements to the materials used in the solar panels and optimized a material called Ga-rich Cu (In, Ga) (S, Se)2 through a special chemical process.

They also treated the material with sodium after it was deposited and used a special zinc-based buffer that did not contain cadmium. Cadmium is a natural element found in tiny amounts in air, water, soil, and food and is commonly used in manufacturing solar cells.

The team found out that the advancements in the manufacturing process can be applied to AVANCIS’ ongoing product series, which means they can make more solar panels with these improvements.

The company said these large solar panels give architects much freedom to design solar facades. Its color technology allows the panels to have dynamic colors, creating an interplay of light and color in architectural designs.

In March, Midsummer, a Swedish developer, in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, developed a four-terminal perovskite-CIGS tandem solar cell that has demonstrated an efficiency of 24.9%.

Researchers at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin recently found that solar cells made of metal halide perovskites achieve high efficiencies and can be produced from liquid inks with little energy input.