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On the thermodynamic limit of photovoltaic energy conversion


An infinite stack ofpn junctions with smoothly varying bandgap from ∞ to 0 is considered. AnIV characteristic is derived, which is more correct than the classical exponential characteristic. It is shown that open-circuit operation is a reversible process and leads to the Carnot efficiency, if one defines the efficiency in the way that is usual in the theory of thermodynamic engines. If instead one uses the definition of efficiency usual in photovoltaics, open-circuit mode gives rise to zero efficiency. Then operation at maximum efficiency equals operation at maximum power and is not reversible.

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De Vos, A., Pauwels, H. On the thermodynamic limit of photovoltaic energy conversion. Appl. Phys. 25, 119–125 (1981).

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