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IRL scientist wins industry award

Media Release

24 December 2008

IRL scientist wins industry award for solar cell technology

Tim Kemmitt, senior research scientist with Industrial Research Limited's (IRL) Hydrogen and Distributed Energy team, has won a Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) Industry Award for his work on photovoltaics (PV) for solar power generation.

Tim received the Sharp award for the most innovative approach to raising the standard of the PV industry, both commercial and domestic.

It recognised his research using quantum dots and nanotechnology to produce more efficient solar cells. The technology also promises to make solar cells cheaper to produce, an important factor in increasing uptake of solar energy.

"New Zealand is fortunate in that much of our electricity comes from hydro-generation but as demand increases so too does the pressure on our rivers and lakes. Aside from the environmental impact of new hydro-power projects, over recent years droughts have affected lake levels and the security of power supply," he says.

Tim says that around 15 per cent of electricity sent to the North Island from South Island hydro-generators is lost in transmission.

"If we could improve the efficacy of solar power generation to make it commercially viable we could put in place generation facilities in or near urban areas and minimise these loses."

Tim's research involves making more electrons from photons and using more of the energy available in solar spectrum than traditional solar cells.

"We've demonstrated that we can make a working cell at a very small scale and we've got some support from industry to develop, manufacture and scale-up the cells."

At every step of the way Tim's research is firmly focused on advancing the photovoltaic technology whilst reducing cost. "We are looking at materials and manufacturing techniques that keep costs down. At the end of the day what counts is the number of watts of electricity produced per dollar," he says.


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