IBM Develops Higher-Efficiency Solar Cells Using Non-Rare Materials

While IBM is primarily known for its information technology products, the company has recently begun expanding into the alternative energy market. So far, that change has mainly taken the form of a new ad campaign. But IBM is now backing those words up with action, by unveiling a groundbreaking solar cell, 40 percent more efficient than any similar cells.

The cells operate at a power conversion efficiency of 9.6 percent. And while that isn’t that high, the cells use only common elements like copper, zinc, tin, sulfur, and selenium. By comparison, the most efficient common earth element solar cell on the market today only operates at 6.7 percent efficiency.

By shying away from the rare earth elements employed by so many other solar cells, IBM hopes to both keep the cost of their cells down, and prevent reliance on foreign sources for rare earth elements.

Ultimately, IBM plans to lease the technology to other companies, rather than getting into the solar manufacturing business.