The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has awarded $2.5 million in solar energy research funding to Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, the John Hooke Chair of Nanoscience at the University of Sydney Nano Institute.

The funds will support two multi-institutional research projects with Professor Ho-Baillie as lead chief investigator. These projects will improve the energy-conversion efficiencies and durability of emerging silicon-perovskite photovoltaic cell technologies, which are crystal structures of mineral compounds. The metal halide version is particularly useful for solar-cell applications.

“Perovskite solar cells are really hitting their stride now,” Professor Ho-Baillie said. “Apart from being cheap and easy to produce, these solar cells can be combined with the incumbent silicon technology to boost efficiency. Now we want to make sure these cells are able to last a long time to make our technology truly cost effective.”

Funding will be used to support a new approach where two layers of perovskite cells are stacked on top of a silicon cell to boost output.

Professor Ho-Baillie will be leading a team of researchers from the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, Macquarie University and the University of NSW.

The funding is part of a national injection of $15 million to support 16 research projects to help address solar PV panel efficiency, overall cost reductions and end-of-life issues.

The funding has been awarded to research teams from six Australian universities including the Australian National University, Macquarie University, University of Melbourne, University of NSW, University of Sydney and Swinburne University.

The two-year R&D projects will support solar PV in the following areas:

  • advanced silicon: improvements to the overall cost-effectiveness of silicon-based panels already in mass market production, and their production processes
  • tandem silicon: increasing the cost-effectiveness of silicon-based solar PV through the use of tandem materials
  • new materials: development of new materials with the potential to either reach breakthrough cost-efficiencies, or the potential for new deployment applications
  • end-of-life: new solutions, including upfront solar PV panel designs and end of life processing, that increase the cost-effectiveness of sustainable end-of-life management of solar PV panels.

More than 50 full-time equivalent positions are expected be created across the 16 projects. 

In addition to end-of-life issues, selected projects will also aim to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar PV for new or established applications and develop new materials with the potential to either reach breakthrough cost-efficiencies or the potential for new deployment applications.