Solar Pioneer has won Europe’s biggest innovation award | So Good News
UNSW Sydney Science Professor Martin Green has been awarded the 2022 Millennium Technology Prize for leading teams that have developed the world’s most commercially viable and efficient silicon solar cell technology.
Passivated Emitter and Back Cell (PERC) and Professor Green was awarded the biennial prize of the Finnish Academy of Technology. The EUR 1 million prize will demonstrate the impact of science and innovation on society.
PERC cell technology has helped increase the conversion efficiency of standard solar cells from a relative 50%, from 16.5% in the early 1980s to 25% in the early 2000s.
“The Millennium Prize is not only for my contribution to photovoltaics [the conversion of light into electrical power]but also the achievements of my students and research colleagues at UNSW, as well as the wider photovoltaic (PV) research and commercial community.
“I think this award will boost my credibility as a representative of what needs to be done to combat climate change. To sustain the trajectory of human civilization on our shared planet, we must transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. A great transformation of historical significance is underway.”
As a result of Professor Green’s innovations and advances in PV technology, solar energy is considered essential to the global transition to renewable energy and decarbonisation. Last year, PERC cells accounted for more than 91% of global production of silicon solar modules.
When sunlight – in the form of particles called photons – enters the cell, it excites the electrons in the silicon. In this excited state, electrons can move through the cell, creating an electric current. Professor Green’s work improving the top and back surfaces of the PERC cell allows electrons to remain in this excited state for longer, resulting in more and more efficient energy production.
As at the end of October, data from the Australian Energy Market Operator showed Australian rooftop solar was producing more than all fossil fuel-fired generation combined, reflecting the strength of household and business customers. Also, it’s surprising that it happened on a weekday, since these types of posts usually happen on weekends when there is less demand.
Professor Green and his team are currently working on integrated cell technologies to achieve 40% solar cell efficiency by exploring options such as stacking cells on top of each other.
“Solar cells are often used to replace large power plants that use fossil fuels. In 2021, 20 countries or regions, including Australia, Chile, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Vietnam and California, produced between 8% and 25% of their total electricity from solar energy, and this number will grow rapidly,” said Prof. . – said Green.
UNSW Sydney Science Professor Martin Green has been awarded the 2022 Millennium Technology Prize for leading teams that have developed the world’s most commercially viable and efficient silicon solar cell technology. Photo: Anna Kucera
“The rapid decline in the cost of solar power that my work has facilitated has come at a time when the importance of immediate action to combat climate change is becoming very clear.”
UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs applauded Professor Green for this remarkable achievement.
“On behalf of the entire UNSW community, I offer my heartiest congratulations to Martin on this great achievement. The dramatic reduction in the cost of photovoltaic solar systems in recent years is directly attributable to the research efforts of Martin and his team at UNSW. PERC technology has had and continues to have a transformative impact on the global energy sector and has significantly accelerated the global fight against climate change.
“UNSW is leading the world in the development of solar technology and the Millennium Technology Award further cements Martin’s position as the world’s leading pioneer in this space.”
The 2022 award received 40 nominations from the fields of life sciences, energy and environment, ICT and smart systems, new materials, processes and manufacturing. It is considered one of the highest academic awards in the world as judged by the IREG International Academic Awards List.