Allen Barnett (second from left, front row) at the Univeristy of New South Wales in Australia.

Solar power

UD researchers collaborate with colleagues across country, around globe

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11:19 a.m., Feb. 5, 2013--The search for alternative energy sources has become a global problem, and the University of Delaware is involved in two international programs focused on solar power.

Robert Opila, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is leading the UD effort on both projects – one being a United States–Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC) project and the other the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (ERC).

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The UD team is partnering with two former UD colleagues — Allen Barnett, who is currently a professor in the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and Christiana Honsberg, who is now a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU).

United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC)

The USASEC was formed to support collaborative research between the United States and Australia that aims to fast-track cost reductions in capturing solar energy beyond what is achievable by either country on its own.

Other partners on the project include two companies — AmberWave Inc. and Veeco Inc. — as well as ASU, Yale University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The team aims to cut solar energy costs by developing a high-voltage solar cell that will be 40 percent more efficient than conventional solar cells. Researchers and industry partners will combine three cutting-edge technologies to produce a new low-cost, high-efficiency solar cell. 

The technology base combines a solar cell developed by UNSW researchers with a novel high-performance, low-cost silicon-germanium (SiGe) solar cell grown on silicon and a new high-voltage gallium-arsenide-phosphide (GaAsP) solar cell grown as the top cell using an innovative set of processes developed by the U.S. partners.

“The cost reduction and increased efficiency that are possible using this technology would accelerate the decline in solar electricity cost to the point where, by mid-decade, the price would be less than that of electricity from conventional sources in residential, commercial, and utility markets in many parts of the world,” said Barnett. 

UD has demonstrated strong capabilities in the analysis of surfaces and interfaces, the growth of GaP on Si, the growth of GaAsP on GaP, and the development of new material systems. UD also houses full high-performance solar cell device fabrication and test facilities.  

Ken Schmieder, a doctoral student in electrical engineering at UD, participated in a one- semester exchange at UNSW.  In addition, Opila will spend the spring 2013 semester at UNSW.

NSF/DOE QESST Engineering Research Center

The QESST ERC is funded jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). QESST focuses on advancing photovoltaics by developing technologies, educational programs, and analysis of policy and sustainability issues that allow the rapid use and development of photovoltaics. 

The technology development focuses on achieving simultaneous improvements in solar cell efficiency and affordability by combining the technologies and advantages of various technologies. Developing such new technologies requires collaboration among researchers in different areas, from fundamental materials and theory to industrial partners. 

UD researchers in collaboration with ASU’s Solar Power Laboratory -- directed by former UD faculty member Christiana Honsberg -- will combine the rapid processing and low processing cost of organics with the high efficiency of silicon solar cells.  The approach allows improved surface properties on silicon solar cells, in turn allowing thin, high-efficiency, low-cost devices. UD also brings to the project expertise in the design of energy policies on photovoltaic technology diffusion, market development, and growth.

Nicole Kotulak, a doctoral student in electrical engineering at UD participated in a one- semester exchange at ASU as well as a solar cell fabrication workshop this January and a semester at the Solar Power Laboratory for silicon solar cell fabrication in spring 2012.

Other partners include the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of New Mexico.

About Allen Barnett

Allen Barnett joined the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia as Professor of Advanced Photovoltaics in September 2011. At UNSW his research is focused on new high- efficiency solar cell modules, thin crystalline silicon (20+percent), and tandem solar cells on silicon (30+percent). He joined UD in 1976 as director of the Institute of Energy Conversion and professor of electrical engineering. He left UD in 1993 to devote full time to AstroPower Inc., which became the largest independent solar cell manufacturer and the fourth largest in the world. He returned to UD in 2003 and was executive director of the Solar Power Program; research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and senior policy fellow in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy

Barnett currently supervises 13 doctoral students and has supervised 26 Ph.D. theses including seven Ph.D. and three M.S. degrees in 2011. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He received the IEEE William R. Cherry Award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of photovoltaic science and technology and the Karl W. Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit. He has more than 280 publications, 28 U.S. patents, and seven R&D 100 Awards for new industrial products.  He actively consults for government agencies, institutional investors, and private companies. He was named one of “The 50 Most Influential Delawareans of the Past 50 Years” in 2012.

About Christiana Honsberg

Christiana Honsberg has been a professor at Arizona State University since 2008. She is also director of the NSF/DOE QESST Engineering Research Center and director of the Solar Power Laboratory at ASU.  Honsberg was a member of the faculty in the University of Delaware Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 2004 to 2008, and she was also director of the UD High-Performance Solar Power Program during that period.  She earned her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at UD in 1992. Honsberg has also taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of New South Wales.

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