First Solar’s cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cell achieved a conversion efficiency of 18.7 percent, confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). First Solar’s manufacturing process can turn a sheet of glass into a solar module in less than 2.5 hours.

Boeing’s Spectrolab subsidiary holds a new world record, verified by NREL, for a triple-junction cell, with 38.8 percent efficiency — the highest ever for a ground-based solar cell that does not use concentrated sunlight.

Samsung has taken the record for the most efficient copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar panels, using a two-stage process similar to that developed by Solar Frontier. The 1.44-square meter panel produced conversion efficiency of 15.7 percent, confirmed by TÜV Rheinland. Samsung plans to build a 200-megawatt production facility in 2014, then expand it to 1 gigawatt in 2015.

On a smaller scale, China’s Hanergy has reached 19.6 per- cent conversion efficiency on a laboratory CIGS sample, certified by the Fraunhofer Institute. The company has invested in two very different processes: Solibro, a batch co-evaporation process, and MiaSolé, a roll-to-roll sputtering process.

In a leap from the previous record of 11.1 percent efficiency, Japan’s Solar Frontier has reported a new record of 12.6 percent efficiency for a copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS) solar cell, in partnership with IBM and TOK. The component chemicals are cheap, earth-abundant materials.

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