Efforts have currently brought the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23 percent.
In comparison, silicon solar panels on the market today have around an 18 percent efficiency rating.
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Physicists are pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached.
They have made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make a new material.
Ultimately, the challenge is to develop terawatt-scale technologies to produce power at a cost equivalent or lower than current fossil-fuel-based technologies.
This requires power conversion efficiencies approaching theoretically predicted values, lifetimes of 25 or more years, low cost and easy deployment.
Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon, which -- for now -- remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun's light into electrical energy.
"We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis," Yan said.