Fundamentals of PV efficiency interpreted by a two-level model
Date of this Version2013
Am. J. Phys. 81, 655 (2013)
We consider the physics of photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion in a two-level, atomic PV and explain the conditions for which the Carnot efficiency is reached and how it can be exceeded. The loss mechanisms—thermalization, angle entropy, and below-bandgap transmission—explain the gap between Carnot efficiency and the Shockley-Queisser limit. Techniques developed to reduce these losses (e.g., solar concentrators, tandem cells, etc.) are reinterpreted using a simple two-level model. Remarkably, this simple model captures the essence of PV operation and reproduces the key results and important insights that that have been previously obtained using more complicated derivations.
Power and Energy