Manufacturing News

Cheap and efficient solar energy on the horizon

Swinburne University of Technology has teamed up with China-based Suntech Power, the world’s largest photovoltaic module manufacturer, to create the next generation of solar cells.

The Australian university and Suntech will collaborate to develop solar cells that are twice as efficient and run at half the cost of those currently available.

Swinburne will contribute $3 million to the venture, with Suntech pledging a further $3 million over the course of the collaboration.

The project is also seeking funding from the Victorian Government.

Leading the group will be Swinburne Centre for Micro-Photonics Director, Professor Min Gu and Suntech CEO Dr Shi Zhengrong, who is also an Australian citizen.

According to Gu, the group’s combination of research and business expertise will allow them to develop and manufacture the revolutionary solar cells within five years.

“The project will be based around the development of nanoplasmonic solar cells,” he said.

“This new technology allows for the efficient collection of solar energy in a wider colour range than cells currently being developed in other laboratories.

“This will make them twice as efficient as the current generation of cells, and will also make them significantly less costly to run.”

While Swinburne will lead the R&D and Suntech will manage the manufacturing, the project will be collaborative throughout each stage.

“By working with Suntech in the development phase, we can ensure the technology can be transferred to the production line. This should allow us to have the cells ready for manufacture within five years,” said Gu.

The Suntech CEO was also enthusiastic about the new venture.

“This relationship will combine Swinburne’s high quality research with Suntech’s ability to rapidly commercialise new technologies into cost effective applications.

“Nanoplasmonic technology has the potential to take solar to the next level,” said Shi.

According to Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young the agreement will not only be significant for the university, but it could also have a positive impact on Australia’s manufacturing industry.

“This partnership will result in major research and development in solar energy,” he said.

“It could lead to significant industrial benefits for the state of Victoria, and even be a precursor to Suntech manufacturing in Australia.”

The collaborative research group will be housed in Swinburne’s new Advanced Technology Centre, which is a $130 million dollar development due to be completed by early 2011.

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