Drive through most neighborhoods around the world, and you are likely to find at least a few homes that have solar panels installed on the roof for collecting electricity from the sun. The challenge for solar panels that are used in residential and industrial applications today is the inefficiency of the panels at turning sunlight into electricity. The average panel offers yields in the 17-19% range.
Researchers from a company called Insolight, a spin-off of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), have created new residential solar panels that are nearly twice as efficient as regular panels. These new solar panels deliver yields of 29% according to independent lab tests.
The new panels use a patented optical system to concentrate sunlight on a kind of mini photovoltaic cell normally used in satellites. Solar panels of the type used on satellites are generally very expensive, to keep costs down the team developed a protective glass that allows the placement of optical lenses that concentrate sunlight up to 100x and direct that sunlight to the very small surface of the high-performance cells.