New silicon solar cells
The most widely used technology for solar panels is crystalline silicon. It has been in existence for more than 50 years and has a global market share of 95%. More than half of all solar panels worldwide contain TNO technology. The energy yield of mass-produced silicon solar cells has risen sharply in the last decade, to well over 20%.
Silicon is derived from the Latin word silex, meaning flint. It used to be called ‘silicium’, with the ‘-ium’ ending because it resembles a metal.
The world’s newest technology
The highest efficiency achieved with a silicon-based solar cell is more than 26%, which is already close to the theoretical maximum. Together with our partners, we want to get as close as possible to this maximum, through new developments and applications. To be precise, by applying the very best functional layers to the silicon wafer and thus making complete solar cells. These are ultra-thin layers down to a few thousandths of a micrometre (nanometre) thin, which are needed for the perfect solar cell and yet can be made industrially. We’re developing this technology in our solar lab, together with companies and other knowledge institutions. We lead the field worldwide in this research.
TNO has always been at the forefront of developing and marketing solar cell and panel technology. The technology for high-efficiency n-type solar cells has already been embraced by a major manufacturer in its so-called PANDA modules. These are based on technology that we developed together with Dutch suppliers.
The global solar energy market is highly competitive. Mass production of solar panels is mainly based in low-wage countries in Asia. The Netherlands is distinguished by its smart innovations in the preproduction phase. Together with Dutch companies, we develop technologies that they incorporate into materials, components, and production equipment. The aim is to launch these on the market, to strengthen and improve European production of solar panels. In this way, we provide cost-effective and reliable ways to generate solar energy with a high efficiency.
Webinar on solar energy technology
Discover more about solar energy and current technological developments in the webinar ‘Innovations in solar energy technology’.
Our latest developments
Solar cells for extreme conditions in aerospace applications
Solar technology: opportunities and challenges
Solar energy: limits to yield extended further
Solar energy is developing at lightning speed. The increase in efficiency is, amongst others, causing a cost reduction. TNO researchers, Eindhoven University of Technology and Delft University of Technology broke two world records on next generation so-called four terminal tandem devices (stack of two solar cells / sub-cells resulting in a better utilization of the energy in the solar spectrum).