Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Durham University leads UK research project into cheaper solar energy

A national team of scientists led by experts at Durham University are embarking on one of the UK’s largest ever research projects into photovoltaic (PV) solar energy.

The £6.3million PV-21 programme will focus on making thin-film light absorbing cells for solar panels from sustainable and affordable materials.

The four-year project, which begins in April (2008), is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the SUPERGEN initiative.

Eight UK universities, led by Durham and including Bangor, Bath, Cranfield, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Northumbria and Southampton, are involved in the project.

They will work together with nine industrial partners towards a “medium to long-term goal” of making solar energy more competitive and sustainable, particularly in light of the recent rise in fossil fuel prices.

At present solar cells – used to convert light energy into electricity - are made from key components such as the rare and expensive metal indium which costs approximately £320 ($660) per kilogram.

To cut costs in solar cell production the research team will work to reduce the thickness of the cells.

Making a solar semiconductor thinner by one millionth of a metre in solar cells generating one gigawatt of power could save 50 tonnes of material.

Researchers will also experiment with sustainable low-cost materials which could be used in the manufacturing of solar cells and on the use of nanotechnology and dyes on ultra-thin silicon to capture increased amounts of energy from the sun’s rays.

Principal investigator Professor Ken Durose, in the Department of Physics, at Durham University, said: “With the rapid increase in fossil fuel prices and the recent Government announcement about investment in nuclear power it is even more important that we look at long-term future energy generation from solar power.

“At present you would need tens of tonnes of very rare and expensive materials for large scale production of solar cells to produce sizeable amounts of power.

“Some of the materials currently used may not be sustainable in 20 years time which is why we have to conduct research into alternative materials that are cheaper to buy and more sustainable.

“We are also leading the way in making ultra-thin solar cells that need less material.

“Our medium to long-term goal is to make a major contribution to achieving competitive photovoltaic solar energy, which we hope will lead to an uptake in the use of solar power.”

The latest funding follows an initial four-year research project by PV-21 focusing on the development of thin-layer PV cells using compound semiconductors based on the cadmium telluride and chalcopyrite systems.

This work will form the basis for testing new ideas over the next four years.

Chris Pywell, Head of Strategic Economic Change at regional development agency One NorthEast, said: “This project will add substantially to the position of North East England which is already at the forefront of photovoltaic energy research.

“This leading position presents a great opportunity to the region as the world addresses climate change. As well as the strengths of Durham and Northumbria universities that are demonstrated by this success, we have the PV development facilities at NaREC, the new PETEC facilities at NETPark, and great businesses such as ROMAG.

“The Agency, Durham University and our other partners are committed to building on this new project and our many other successes to ensure the region leads the UK in renewable energy.”

Leighton Kitson | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Neutrons pave the way to accelerated production of lithium-ion cells
20.03.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Monocrystalline silicon thin film for cost-cutting solar cells with 10-times faster growth rate fabricated
16.03.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>