Silicon Thin Films Make Low Cost Electricity Generation Possible

UNSW Professor Martin Green says his pioneering thin film ‘silicon-on-glass’ technology could be applied in health programs to provide safe drinking water and vaccine refrigeration, and provide a major new energy source for our cities.

“The era of widespread uptake of photovoltaics that can raise quality of life and living standards in poorer rural areas is drawing closer,” says Green, an Australian Federation Fellow and Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales.

“My work has been motivated by the clear need for a low-cost method of generating solar electricity. I believe our latest work with silicon thin-film cells had finally made this possible. The most significant challenge facing photovoltaics is the need to quickly reduce prices so the technology can rapidly contribute more to global electricity generation, reducing the need for future fossil or nuclear power plants,” says Green.

“The decision by a consortium headed by Q Cells, Europe’s largest conventional cell manufacturer, to invest the multi-million euros required to commercialise ‘silicon-on-glass’ technology during 2005/2006 means photovoltaics could attain its full potential as a sustainable source of cheap electricity for both the developed and developing world.”

In 1985, Professor Green and colleagues at the Centre for Advanced Silicon Photovoltaics and Photonics achieved the photovoltaic “four minute mile” – the first silicon cell to convert 20 per cent of incident sunlight energy into electricity. His research group has held the world-record for silicon efficiency ever since – excepting six months in 1988 – improving efficiency by over 50 per cent.

Martin Green is an Australian Federation Fellow and holds a Scientia Professorship at the University of New South Wales. He is Research Director of the Centre for Advanced Silicon Photovoltaics and Photonics, and Research Director of CSG Solar, a company formed to commercialise next-generation ‘crystalline silicon on glass’ thin-film solar cells he helped develop.

For more information on photovoltaics, click here.

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