One of the most usual procedures to measure a concentrator optical efficiency is by direct comparison between the photocurrent generated by the compound concentrator/solar cell and photocurrent that single cell would generate under identical radiation conditions. Unfortunately, such procedure can give a good idea of the generator final performance, but can not indicate the real amount of radiation that will impinge over the cell.
This apparent contradiction is based on the fact that once the cell is coupled with the concentrator, rays incidence is not perpendicular, but highly oblique, with an angle that can reach 70<sup>o</sup> or even greater for high concentration devices. The antireflective coating of the cell does not perform well enough for the whole incidence angle and frequency ranges because low cost is other important requirement for the solar cells. In consequence, the generated photocurrent drops for large incidence angles. In our case, a 70% incidence angle could, in the worst case, mean a 34% loss on generated photocurrent.
With the aim of correcting such problem a special device has been designed in the framework of a EU funded project called HAMLET. The concept of the device is to substitute the concentrator receptor by a system formed by an optical collimator that would reduce concentration and incidence angle, and a characterized solar cell. The paper gives the results of this measuring procedure.
A novel photovoltaic concentrator has been developed in the framework of the European project "High efficiency silicon solar cells concentrator". In this project, front-contacted silicon solar cell have also been designed and manufactured by the project leader (the French LETI). This silicon cell concept is potentially capable to perform well (24% efficiency has been predicted) for much higher concentration levels than the back-contacted cells (and, of course, than the two-side contacted cells).
The concentrator is formed by one lens of squared contour with flat entry surface and large-facet Fresnel exit surface, and a secondary that encapsulates the solar cell. On the contrary to the conventional Fresnel lens plus nonimaging secondary concentrators, the primary and secondary are designed simultaneously, leading to better concentration-acceptance angle product without compromise with the compactness.
The grid lines in the front-contacted cells are aluminium prisms (which contact the p+ and n+ emitters, alternatively), acting as a linear cone concentrator that concentrates Cg =1.52× in the cross sectional dimension of the prisms. The secondary concentrator has a refractive rotational symmetric top surface that is crossed with two linear flow-line TIR mirror. Then, in the cross section normal to the aluminium prisms, the secondary provides a 2D concentration of Cg =12×, while in the cross section parallel to the prisms it provides a 2D concentration of Cg =24.16× as the grid lines in this dimension. Therefore, the cell is rectangular (1:2.08 aspect ratio), being the grid lines parallel to the shorter rectangle side. The total 3D geometrical concentration is 24.16×(12×1.52) = 455× for the square aperture and rectangular cell, and gets a design acceptance angle α=±1.8 degrees.
Injection moulded prototypes are have been manufactured and measured, proving an optical efficiency of 79%. Computer modelling of the concentrator performance will also be presented.