It creates a new world record for unfocused sunlight and nudging closer to the theoretical limits for such a device.

The record was set using a 28 cm2 four-junction mini-module embedded in a prism that divides the incoming rays into four bands.

A hybrid four-junction receiver will be used to squeeze more energy from each beam of sunlight.

The result has also been confirmed by US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is almost 44% more efficient than the earlier record set by Alta Devices.

University of New South Wales senior researcher Mark Keevers said: "This encouraging result shows that there are still advances to come in photovoltaics research to make solar cells even more efficient.

"Extracting more energy from every beam of sunlight is critical to reducing the cost of electricity generated by solar cells as it lowers the investment needed, and delivering payback faster."

Professor Martin Green of UNSW’s Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics explained that the level of efficiency was not expected for many years.

Two years ago, the same UNSW team had achieved 40% conversion rate in 2014 with mirrors that concentrate sunlight – technique known as Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV) and then splitting out several wavelengths.

A recent study by Germany’s Agora Energiewende think tank set a target of 35% efficiency by 2050 for a module that uses unconcentrated sunlight, like the standard ones on family homes.

Image: Dr Mark Keevers one of the mini-modules. Photo: Courtesy of University of New South Wales.