Just a simple question: how efficient are today's solar cells?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. High efficiency depends on a solar cell that can generate more electricity per incident solar power unit. Basically the solar cell's ability to produce more electricity in a given area. Theoretically speaking, to say that a solar cell has 100% efficiency means that the solar cell converts all of the sunlight it receives into electricity. Major solar panel manufacturers like Sharp, Q-Cell, First Solar, Kyocera Solar concentrate on improving the efficiency even by 1%. The more efficient, the more money that can be made.
The chart below shows the most efficient solar cells that has been developed and tested. Some of the high efficient solar cells have not been mass produced yet.
The efficiency highly depends on the material that the solar cells are made. The most common types of solar cells are:
It is interesting to see all the other types of materials that are being tested today....
Fun Fact: According to Encyclopedia Britannica the first genuine solar cell was built around 1883 by Charles Fritts, who used junctions formed by coating selenium (a semiconductor) with an extremely thin layer of gold.