Japanese solar panel manufacturer Solar Frontier has achieved a new thin-film solar cell efficiency record of 19.7%. The material used was not the conventional silicon based, rather it was a novel material called Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide (CIGS). This efficiency improvement was done through collaboration with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The new record broke a previous record of 18.6%, which stood for 10 years. Efficiency improvements help reducing the footprint of solar panels, which has practical, convenience and cost benefits, such as a reduction of installation cost.
CIGS can be deposited onto a substrate, rather than sawed from a solid material like silicon wafer cells are. However, this has been a challenge. Notably, CIGS solar panels can be flexible which open up to a variety of useful applications. CIGS is also less sensitive to shadowing and high-temperature. This makes it a better solar material in the countries, like Malaysia, which has a high chance of cloudy and rainy days.