To answer "which substance is the best transmitter of solar energy?", the most intriguing question that pops in your mind when you think about the efficiency and performance of a solar panel. We will have to bring a lot of factors into play.
Because many materials are truly the best in some cases, but in other cases, other materials perform better than them.
So below, I am going to discuss all of the materials that have been so far used in manufacturing solar panels and discuss their performance in certain situations.
Amorphous silicon, the least efficient material to manufacture solar panels from with an efficiency of only 7%. This material is usually used in solar-based products which require a lightweight form factor since it has extremely less body weight.
The other use in which amorphous silicon can be made practical is flexible applications because this material is quite sturdy and carries the potential to stay put in high temperatures and overcast conditions.
Thin-film solar cells are made from amorphous silicon. And even though the technology is pretty old school, it is still actively used in some objects that require a lightweight and sturdy but cheap way out to generate solar energy.
As thin-film solar cells are composed of amorphous silicon so they are not too efficient nevertheless usable.
Calculators, crooked buildings, bags, etc.
Unlike amorphous silicon, crystalline silicon is quite efficient because it has a crystalline structure for the alignment of its cells. And a crystalline structure is fantastic at transmitting solar energy. Moreover, to further increase the efficiency of the crystalline structure, it is made more perfect and pristine as the better the structure the more efficient it is said to be.
To improve the crystalline structure, the crystal structure goes through a wide range of processes and tests. And of course, all of this processing and testing is expensive so in between the structure improvement procedure, the cost of the crystalline silicon is also increased.
Now, when the structure is done improving until it can't be improved further. The crystalline structure is also treated and coated with some materials that tend to absorb light. Because the goal is to make as less reflection of light from crystalline silicon as possible to make it even more efficient.
After going through all of the efficiency increasing phases, crystalline silicon can be up to more than 20% more efficient than any other material. And that is the reason why it is majorly used in solar panels that are made for regular use.
Monocrystalline silicon solar cells which are also the most efficient solar cells available for the consumer market are made of crystalline silicon solar panels. The monocrystalline solar cells are made of highly purified silicon. They are produced in a similar color and a wafer-like structure.
Surprisingly, monocrystalline solar cells are not just the most efficient solar cells for solar panels but they also last the longest. Plus, they can generate more power than any other material solar cell in any weather conditions which means that they perform incredibly at both extreme temperatures and overcast or cloudy days.
However, in practice, monocrystalline solar cells are indeed really efficient and effective, but there is a catch. These solar cells do not come cheap and have quite a high price tag which makes them not reachable for every user who wants to take advantage of their efficiency.
Homes, offices, etc.
Polycrystalline solar cells are not as expensive as monocrystalline solar cells because not as much level of detail goes into the manufacturing of polycrystalline solar cells compared to monocrystalline solar cells.
To be more precise, they are created just by dumping some raw silicon into square molds. So even though this rather dull process does not bring much efficiency to the crystalline structure of these solar cells, it surely does bring down the price drastically. And some people are willing to trade the high efficiency of monocrystalline solar cells for the low price of polycrystalline solar cells.
Apart from high efficiency, two more aspects in which polycrystalline solar panels fall short of monogram solar panels are high-temperature performance and long lifespan. They neither perform well in high-temperature conditions nor last as long as their counterpart.
To be clear, scientists and researchers are still not done with finding the perfect substance to create an abundance of solar energy for everyone in the world. The progress is continuous. Regularly, a number of experiments and testing is still being carried out to make the surge of solar panels possible throughout especially in third world countries.
Coming to the progress that scientists have been able to make so far. In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz around a substance named Gallium arsenide. It is said to have a very high yield in a small space. The only and most critical downside of Gallium is that it is extremely rare so there is no way that manufacturers will be able to manufacture it for everyone at a low or even reasonable price. The problem is not just with Gallium though, Arsenide is also referred to as a poisonous element and can lead to harmful effects to the environment.
However, the fight to find the best photovoltaic material has not stopped here, scientists are still continuously studying various elements and hopefully will be able to crack the code in the near future.
As I stated at the start that there is no 'best' material discovered yet that can nail the solar panel technology. In fact, there are many different photovoltaic panels and each one comes with its own benefits and quirks. It is totally your personal preference and situation which one you decide to use for yourself.
The good news is that the innovation in the field of solar panels has not come to a hiatus yet. There is some fresh stuff happening now and then to fully implement this green initiative globally. And I am personally a firm believer that somewhere in the near future, scientists will find the perfect material for solar panels, and then solar energy will prevail everywhere including the third world countries which right now have only a fraction of solar energy consumers.