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Researchers from India, Britain collaborate to make mobile labs that can manufacture next-gen solar cells

Think Change India
8th Nov 2017
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A team of researchers from Britain and India has kicked off a project to develop next-generation photovoltaics (PVs) in the country with the aim of making mobile labs that can manufacture these devices at a lower cost.

The 8 million pound Strategic University Network to Revolutionise Indian Solar Energy (SUNRISE) project is powered by the Global Challenges Research Fund to rapidly accelerate and provide low-cost printed PVs and tandem solar cells for use in off-grid Indian communities within the lifetime of the project (October 1, 2017, to December 31, 2021).

Source: NewsX

One of the project investigators, Matthew Davies of Britain's Swansea University, told IANS,

We need to catalyse interest in scientific research in India to help this project. We hope to have labs in India... mobile labs that can make these devices so they are very cheap to make and they are easy (to make) so in future we hope to develop a route where we have a factory (in the lorry essentially) where we can make PVs.

The Indian partners include IIT Delhi, NPL Delhi, CSIR Hyderabad, IISER Pune, and IIT Kanpur.

We want to develop the use of next-gen photovoltaic materials in India. So we are looking to develop buildings as power stations — that means that your house, the building envelope, becomes the material with which you generate the electricity. That may involve, especially in India, PVs on the roof, Davies said.

To enable the manufacturing of next-gen technologies in India, the strategy is to set up graduate programmes in the respective areas.

So we want to set up graduate programmes here, so we have programmes teaching Indian doctorate students and other students how to make these solar cells for the villages and develop mobile labs, so we can share the benefit of solar energies and technologies, clean water, and clean sanitation technologies, he said.

Davies was speaking on the sidelines of 'OPTRONIX', the fourth International Conference on Opto-Electronics and Applied Optics, 2017, organised by the University of Engineering & Management (UEM) in association with the Institute of Engineering & Management (IEM). While the current generation of PVs tap into silicon, the stress is on crafting materials and technologies of low toxicity, that are cheap to make and of high performance. They should be printable and flexible as well.

We want to use solar power responsibly. Silicon is widely used which is first-generation and very efficient and stable but it takes a lot of energy to make these PVs. So it takes a long time to pay back and they are also very rigid so the type of technologies we work on we can print so they can be flexible. They can make very large areas of them, very cheaply, with very little energy. They are easier to integrate into buildings... say, as in windows. So we are working on a range of technologies such as perovskites, dye-sensitised solar cells, organic PVs. We are looking at whatever we can print, Davies said.

The research impact of scalable and stable low-cost metal mounted PV products will be supported by technology demonstration at five off-grid village communities (each of up to 20,000 people).

There are two stages: the adoption of current photovoltaic technologies, about which we are keen. At the same time, we need to work on next-gen technologies. Today most countries use silicon. It does work very well, but we are looking at adding functionality to things and lower the cost and energy that goes into making of these devices. India has a fantastic attitude to solar PVs so it comes right from the top. There is a real demand for electricity, particularly solar technology. The country has a very positive attitude and hopefully we can help and also learn from that, Davies said.

With inputs from IANS.

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