Solar energy research wins $967K
30 November 2010
A team of solar energy researchers led by Dr Tim Schmidt, from the School of Chemistry, has been awarded a $487 584 grant from the Australian Government's Australian Solar Institute. Dr Raphaël Clady, part of the solar research team, has also been awarded an Australian Solar Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, announced the Australian Solar Institute Round 2 grants, four Postdoctoral Fellowships and four PhD scholarships on 29 November 2010 in Canberra.
The Australian Solar Institute will provide $21.6 million funding for 14 solar energy research projects under Round 2 of the grants program.
The team led by Dr Tim Schmidt also includes Professor Maxwell Crossley and Associate Professor Sebastien Perrier, all from the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney.
The fundamental research project is called 'Upconversion of the solar spectrum for improved PV energy conversion' and will be additionally supported by the NSW Government through its Science Leveraging Fund.
"Our Australian Solar Institute project grant recognises the advances made in the last few years in our spectroscopy laboratory. The funding will significantly advance our technology towards more efficient solar energy harvesting," said Dr Schmidt.
"Most commercial solar cells are limited to absorbing particles of light above a certain threshold energy. This causes their energy conversion efficiency to be limited to about 33% under standard illumination. Our research will develop a coating for solar cells which can harvest the sub-threshold light," explained Dr Schmidt.
"By joining the energy of two low energy particles together, the material will re-radiate the light into the solar cell above the absorption threshold. Doing this raises the energy conversion efficiency limit considerably.
"Cells with thresholds corresponding to 620nm light - reddish-orange light - have their efficiency ceiling doubled. By raising the ceiling, the project aims to bring about 10% improvements in real cells within three years," said Dr Schmidt.
Other participants in the project include Imperial College, London; UNSW; the University of Adelaide; and the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy, Berlin. The University of Sydney project comprises a total cash budget of $811 000, with Sydney and other partners contributing an additional $1 million in in-kind contributions.
"We're also really pleased that one of our postdoctoral researchers was successful in winning one of only four Australian Solar Institute Postdoctoral Fellowships. Raphaël's three-year postdoctoral fellowship will allow him to continue to make fantastic experimental contributions to solar energy projects around the world," said Dr Schmidt.
"He will be performing ultrafast spectroscopic experiments on a range of new generation solar energy materials to track the degradation and processing of energy on the femtosecond timescale."
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, said investment in solar energy is a key part of the Australian Government's vision for a low-emissions economy.
"The global use of renewable energy is predicted to triple by 2035 and these investments position Australia to take advantage of this growth," said Minister Ferguson.
The Australian Solar Institute grants support Australian researchers in solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal technologies. The Institute helps to retain Australian solar expertise and develop the next generation of Australian solar researchers.
The Australian Solar Institute is part of the Government's $5.1 billion Clean Energy Initiative, which includes the Solar Flagships initiative.
See all the winners of Australian Solar Institute grants, postdoctoral fellowships and PhD scholarships at: www.australiansolarinstitute.com.au/news.htm
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997