Sponsored - With one of the top solar energy programs in the nation, The University of Toledo is helping power the future with creative solutions to make clean energy technologies more efficient and accessible.
In recognition of UToledo’s more than 30-year history advancing solar energy technology, the U.S. Department of Energy recently selected the University to lead a new Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur made the announcement on the UToledo campus in August.
As part of a $20 million federal investment in cadmium telluride (CdTe) technologies, the initiative aims to spur technological advancements that will strengthen national energy security and clear the way for widespread use of clean solar electricity.
Cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells were first developed in the United States and are the second-most common photovoltaic technology in the world after silicon. First Solar, which got its start at UToledo and recently announced a $185 million investment in northwest Ohio facilities, is a manufacturer of these types of solar cells and a partner in the consortium. The consortium also includes Colorado State University, Toledo Solar Inc. and Sivananthan Laboratories Inc.
“Our world requires scientific innovation to address the inefficient ways we find, produce and consume energy,” UToledo President Gregory Postel said. “The University of Toledo is proud to help power the future by leading this consortium that leverages our expertise in solar energy research and commercialization and strengthens our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and other leaders in this important and growing field.”
The announcement by the U.S. Department of Energy is just the latest example of UToledo’s three decades as a trailblazer in solar energy research and development.
The Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization was created at UToledo in 2007 to support solar energy research and manufacturing with $18.6 million in support from the Ohio Department of Development, along with matching contributions of $30 million from federal agencies, universities and industrial partners.
Among the latest UToledo projects in this area is the development of flexible photovoltaic energy sheets that would live in space. Randall Ellingson, professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy and member of the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, received a $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Air Force to create these new solar cell sheets that can take advantage of the 37% stronger sunlight above the atmosphere and then in the future be able to transmit power wirelessly back to earth or orbital instrumentation.
Another UToledo physicist, Yanfa Yan, Distinguished University Professor of Physics and member of the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, is pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached through his significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make a new ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell that could enter the consumer market in the near future.
Yan also is working with colleague Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, to combine two types of solar cells to harvest light to convert to electricity directly from the sun and light reflected off the ground. Developing the stronger and longer-lasting solar panels combines perovskites with existing cadmium-selenide-telluride-based solar cells to maximize performance and reduce costs.
In addition to the creation of better solar panels, UToledo researchers are working to improve solar power conversion circuitry to more reliably power spacecraft using the sun’s energy on future missions to Mars and the moon. Engineers Daniel Georgiev and Raghav Khanna, associate professors of electrical engineering, are working to make the power conversion circuity more tolerant of the space-related radiation that degrades the performance of electricity generated by solar panels aboard spacecraft.
Learn more about how UToledo scientists are establishing Ohio as a leader in next-generation clean energy innovations at utoledo.edu/features/energy.