A thin layer (≈10 microns) of a novel “transparent” fluorescent material is applied to existing solar cells or modules to effectively block and convert UV light, or other lower solar response waveband of solar radiation, to visible or IR light that can be more efficiently used by solar cells for additional photocurrent. Meanwhile, the layer of fluorescent coating material remains fully “transparent” to the visible and IR waveband of solar radiation, resulting in a net gain of solar cell efficiency.

This innovation alters the effective solar spectral power distribution to which an existing cell gets exposed, and matches the maximum photovoltaic (PV) response of existing cells. By shifting a low PV response waveband (e.g., UV) of solar radiation to a high PV response waveband (e.g. Vis-Near IR) with novel fluorescent materials that are transparent to other solar-cell sensitive wavebands, electrical output from solar cells will be enhanced.

This approach enhances the efficiency of solar cells by converting UV and high-energy particles in space that would otherwise be wasted to visible/IR light. This innovation is a generic technique that can be readily implemented to significantly increase efficiencies of both space and terrestrial solar cells, without incurring much cost, thus bringing a broad base of economical, social, and environmental benefits.

The key to this approach is that the “fluorescent” material must be very efficient, and cannot block or attenuate the “desirable and unconverted” waveband of solar radiation (e.g. Vis-NIR) from reaching the cells. Some nano-phosphors and novel organometallic complex materials have been identified that enhance the energy efficiency on some state-of-the-art commercial silicon and thin-film-based solar cells by over 6%.

This work was done by Xiadong Sun and Haorong Wang of Sun Innovations, Inc. for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. LEW-18781-1