EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in New and Sustainable PV

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Physics


We propose a Centre for Doctoral Training in New and Sustainable PV. It will support the transformation of PV in the UK will that will in turn aid the country to achieve its renewal energy obligations, and will generate jobs in the technology sectors as well as local manufacturing and installation.

The CDT allows for the distributed nature of PV research in the UK with a multi-centre team of seven partners covering all aspects of PV research from novel materials through new device architectures to PV systems and performance. The PhD projects and training span engineering and physical science expertise in materials and device physics, electronic engineering, physical and synthetic chemistry, operations management and manufacturing. The CDT graduates will be capable of transforming state of the art R&D across the PV technologies and, in so doing, contribute to the production and implementation of improved PV products and systems.

All partners are members of the SuperSolar Hub and hence already coordinate integrated PV research and training. Students in the CDT will join a thriving research community. The team has unrivalled access to shared facilities in the best state of the art laboratories in the UK. Our group approach brings together expertise with a breadth and depth for training and research that could not be assembled in any other way. Moreover, the collaboration allows us to cut across the traditional boundaries in PV and enables exciting research vectors to be followed in New and Sustainable PV CDT agenda. International collaborations and formal exchange agreements will emphasise the global aspects of advanced research that are important for the development of a leadership group.

The CDT members will interact with related research themes such as photochemical conversion of fuels for energy and other applications, and heating and cooling by solar radiation and will be a proactive member of the UK wide Network of Energy CDTs.

Our goal is to train the best researchers with a flexible mindset able to communicate across different disciplines and be leaders in the emerging PV industry for advanced technologies. We will provide the training required for graduates to join the sustainable energy and PV sectors. We will establish a real identity of purpose and commonality in each cohort through a training programme designed to give students an understanding of all aspects of PV, including implications for society and an experience of a commercial environment. Students will be provided with a bespoke curriculum and training programme that exposes them to: (i) underpinning fundamentals across all the relevant disciplines, (ii) current state-of-the-art in knowledge and challenges in scale-up and systems, and (iii) unparalleled opportunities to engage in leading-edge interdisciplinary research projects as part of a national team. We will create a doctoral training environment in which students benefit from leading academic expertise and world-class facilities to develop their knowledge as well as the tools to innovate and create within their selected research theme. The unique cross functional skill-sets that our graduates will have will make them highly valuable to the academic community seeking to address ambitious basic manufacturing research challenges, and to industry, who have an urgent need for appropriately trained scientists and engineers able to support PV technologies within their commercial operations.

To allow the students the chance to develop a common sense of purpose, each cohort will attend training events together. Courses will cover fundamental aspects common to all PV technologies and also advanced courses based on the partners' research expertise. There will be industrial and international placements. Coherence across the CDT will be aided by a virtual collaboration medium containing webinars and video lectures and pages where students and staff can collaborate via groups, and online forums.

Planned Impact

The present UK energy situation highlights the need for future diversity and sustainability in our energy provision: within a decade the UK must confront a crisis that could cripple its efforts to massively boost the amount of electricity it gets from renewable energy sources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Under EU rules, the UK must get 15% of its primary energy from renewables by 2020, i.e. about 35 to 40% this being a sevenfold rise in just 10 years. At the same time, under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the government has a legal obligation to cut carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.
Solar power has the potential to provide far more than the 6% fraction of the renewable power obligation predicted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2011. It is a distributed energy source - solar energy is universally available and can be easily harvested by placing arrays of solar cells on large numbers of local buildings, making efficient use of space. The local model of solar electricity generation creates an installation industry stimulating regional economies. An expanded solar sector will create jobs in the manufacturing, feedstock, wholesale and design industries.

In the last two years the deployment of conventional silicon based PV has grown and costs have fallen. Nevertheless, cost remains the barrier for self-sustaining growth in the sector, particularly in the context of new materials that are sustainably sourced and devices whose fabrication requires a low energy budget. These new solar technologies are considered to be a vector for not only mainstream future PV, but also for novel applications such as flexible high performance PV.

The ability of PV to help the UK meet its renewable energy targets and generate jobs is constrained by shortages in the knowledge and skilled manpower needed to make PV solar cells a marketable alternative to conventional means of power generation and to transfer the technology from academic laboratories to production and application by end-users. The CDT in New and Sustainable Photovoltaics will meet this skills shortage by combining the strengths of seven academic institutions with a recognised lead internationally in research on organic, dye sensitized and thin film PV and PV systems. Our highly integrated approach to understanding the causes of low efficiency and short lifetimes (in devices that employ sustainable materials) and for proposing solutions, will take a major step towards the advancement of PV and at the same time provide a cohort of skilled scientists and engineers who can be deployed to develop UK PV industry to the point where it can be a major contributor to UK renewable energy generation.

All seven institutions are members of the recently formed SUPERGEN PV Hub "SuperSolar" and hence are already coordinating their research and training. Almost 200 companies have already signed up as network partners in the PV Hub demonstrating the large commercial activity in the UK in this sector and the consequent demand for trained manpower. The CDT will interact with related activities: for example in photochemical conversion of fuels for energy and other applications, direct heating and cooling by solar means. It will be a proactive member of the UK wide Network of Energy CDTs.

The CDT will train the best researchers with a flexible mind-set able to communicate across different disciplines and sectors and be leaders in the emerging PV industry. Its partners will provide skills training across the PV technologies required for its cohort to be employable by PV industry. The training programme has been designed to give students an understanding of all aspects of PV including its implications for society and an experience of a commercial environment. Topics covered are energy supply, energy conversion, energy demand and cross-cutting themes which examine related socio-economic, behavioural and materials-based research areas.


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