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Australian technology start-up creates world's most efficient solar cell while replacing silver with copper

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Climate change and the increasing prices of non-renewable fuels make sustainable energy options more attractive for consumers. Solar energy is eco-friendly, and industry-related innovations lead to greater affordability. Efficiency is another primary concern for industry players, and if you know anything about the Solar power industry, you’d see that they are always concerned with efficiency.

The pandemic was a wake-up call for the world; oil is a volatile market that crashed and now is fueling inflation across the globe as it recovers from the instability of 2020. Domestic and industrial consumers are looking for long-term energy solutions as the world makes a slow and steady shift towards sustainable sources. Solar power is a front runner to replace non-renewable fuels when the time comes.

“Sundrive”

The last few decades have seen leaps and bounds in improving solar power technology. However, this breakthrough “Sundrive” has put Australia ahead in the race for improved solar cell efficacy. The cofounders of the venture, Vince Allen and David Hu, replaced silver with copper for a cheaper and more efficient solution in commercial-scale solar cells. The previously held record was 25.26%, and Sundrive’s cells have broken the world record with 25.54% efficiency. The claim was tested and confirmed by the “Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamlin” (ISFH) in Germany, which independently tests and confirms solar cell efficiencies. The results might not be significant to the layman, but commercial-sized solar cells performed at only about 14 to 16% efficiency a decade ago.

The cofounders of Sundrive started by conducting hundreds of trial runs in their garage. Finally, their hard work paid off, and their innovation will jeopardize the Chinese supremacy in solar cell manufacturing because Sundrive has replaced the traditionally used silver with copper, which is more accessible and cheaper.

Australian Solar Company Creates the World's Most Efficient Commercial-Sized Solar Cell

In December 2021, according to an article published in PV Magazine, the start-up had successfully made its first full-size solar panel, setting them up for future commercial success. Commercialization was always the creators’ most significant challenge, whether their technology could eventually be mass-produced. After their first successful fabrication, Sundrive is looking at promising investments pouring in. As it stands, Sundrive has attracted roughly $2 million in grants from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and have also captured the interest of billionaire Mike Cannon-Brooke’s of Grok Ventures.

 Sundrive can mobilize copper instead of silver, becoming more expensive each day. As a result, they can push the technology and relieve its reliance on silver as an integral part of the “solar cell”. The potential cost reduction could profoundly impact the solar power industry.

20% of global silver consumption is due to solar panel manufacturing. This figure is only expected to increase, as the “next generation” cells with higher efficiency require three times more silver than previous models. An alternate to the precious metal is bound to improve the prospects for solar energy.

Automation makes land and labour costs easier to rationalize, even for smaller firms. Sundrive is confident in its ability to compete with more prominent Asian manufacturers and protect their intellectual property in the process. If Sundrive succeeds, it is a step in the right direction for the company and will positively impact the Australian market. More innovation will lead to better competition, which will benefit consumers in the end.

Thanks to the breakthrough, the confounders have had immense support in Australia. As a result, the innovators are confident that they can manage to scale their operations within Australia and match the price of the Asian manufacturers.