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Absorbed sunlight in a solar cell produces electrons and holes. However, at the open-circuit condition, the carriers have no place to go. They build up in density, and ideally, they emit external luminescence that exactly balances the incoming sunlight. Any additional nonradiative recombination impairs the carrier density buildup, limiting the open-circuit voltage. At open circuit, efficient external luminescence is an indicator of low internal optical losses. Thus, efficient external luminescence is, counterintuitively, a necessity for approaching the Shockley–Queisser (SQ) efficiency limit. A great solar cell also needs to be a great light-emitting diode. Owing to the narrow escape cone for light, efficient external emission requires repeated attempts and demands an internal luminescence efficiency 90%.
Date of Publication: July 2012