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NSERC Photovoltaic Innovation Network (2009-2015)

Challenge

Canada’s modern day culture, society and economy depend on a reliable and constant source of energy. Our abundant and affordable hydro supply has led to a significant reliance on electricity to sustain our quality of life and to power key industrial sectors, including steel, pulp and paper, motor vehicle manufacturing and oil refinement. In fact, Canada currently ranks sixth worldwide in total electrical consumption behind the United States, China, Russia, Japan and Germany. Given energy’s escalating cost and worldwide demand, and the growing concern over the role that fossil fuels play in both global warming and health risks such as asthma or cancer, there is an urgent need to provide additional clean and sustainable energy supplies as part of our energy strategy.

Network Structure

The Photovoltaic Innovation Network brings together 29 researchers from 13 universities and 20 government and industrial partners. The network will examine a diverse set of approaches to developing photovoltaic (PV) solar cells that are suitable for a wide range of applications, including solar farms, remote power sources, rooftops and windows, automobiles and disposable electronics. The network’s industry partners represent a wide range of stakeholders, including companies that provide feedstock materials for making solar cells, those that make the equipment used to manufacture or test solar cells, and those that make solar cells and modules.

In 2009, the Photovoltaic Innovation Network was awarded $5 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in research funding over five years. Collaborating partners will contribute a further $3.8 million cash and in-kind support over this period.

The Board of Directors governs the network, the Scientific Advisory Committee oversees its research projects and sets research priorities, and the Technology Transfer Committee works with the member universities and companies to transfer technology from the laboratory to the marketplace as rapidly as possible.

Research Objectives

The network’s collaborative and multi-disciplinary research program has the specific objectives of increasing the device conversion efficiency or reducing the device cost to make large scale PV deployment more competitive than electricity generation from fossil fuels. Four central research themes have been identified with promising new approaches:

  • Organic devices with inherently low costs of materials and manufacturing;
  • Inorganic devices that, to date, are the most widely deployed (through silicon-based solar panels) and have achieved record efficiencies (through multi-junction based concentrator systems);
  • Hybrid organic/inorganic devices with the potential to combine the lower costs of organic devices with the higher efficiencies of inorganic devices; and
  • New PV devices and architectures which take advantage of the unique properties of nano-structured materials.

Transparent solar cells optimized for integration into house or building windows, and socioeconomic factors related to adoption of PV technology, will also be considered. The knowledge created will help overcome the current barriers that are preventing these advanced concepts from being commercialized. Research results will be publicly disseminated through a new Web site dedicated to public outreach in solar energy.

Outcomes

Over its five-year term, this network will generate and transfer the intellectual property required to help build and launch a high-tech manufacturing industry in Canada for PV devices, and it will train an estimated 88 personnel (undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) to enact its business strategies. Such efforts will provide a home-grown solution to Canada’s energy needs, enable us to capture a significant share of a nascent yet burgeoning global market for alternative energy devices, and help us to tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our times.

Contact

Rafael Kleiman
Tel.: 905-525-9140, ext. 26290
E-mail: kleiman@mcmaster.ca


Contact us at 1-877-767-1767

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