Purdue workshop to focus on role of simulation in addressing challenges of photovoltaic science, technology and manufacturing

July 27, 2012  

results from advanced computational models

This graphic shows color-coded simulation results from advanced computational models used to characterize the properties of materials used in organic photovoltaic solar cells in efforts to better understand the physics involved and to improve the technology. The Network for Photovoltaic Technology, led by Purdue and funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation, aims to develop such computational capabilities for broad range of PV technologies for higher efficiency and reduced manufacture cost. (B. Ray, P. Nair, E. García, and M. Alam, Purdue University)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Leading researchers from industry, national laboratories and academia will join federal agency officials for a Purdue University symposium next week, focusing on the use of photovoltaic cells for converting sunlight into electricity as an affordable alternative energy source.

"Challenges in Photovoltaic Science, Technology and Manufacturing: A Focus on the Role of Theory, Modeling and Simulation" is scheduled for Aug. 2-3 at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1010.

The event also will celebrate the launch of the Purdue Network for Photovoltaic Technology, which was established in 2011 as part of a $5 million energy research initiative funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to team companies with university research centers to work on alternative energy technologies.

"What are the challenges in moving photovoltaic forward? Where have theory, modeling and simulation been most effective? Can modeling and simulation play the same enabling role in the PV industry as it did for the electronics industry?" said event co-organizer Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-director of the Purdue Network for Photovoltaic Technology.

"Looking to the future, how important will theory, modeling and simulation be? What are the specific opportunities and how should the photovoltaic community address them? This workshop will provide different perspectives on the questions to be addressed and set the stage for lively discussion."

The invitation-only event is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Purdue Energy Center and is being organized by the Purdue Network for Photovoltaic Technology, the SRC and the Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Photovoltaics is a clean energy source for converting sunlight into electricity, and few other power-generating technologies have as little environmental impact. The technology, however, faces several hurdles - primarily costs, efficiency and reliability relating to power generation and transmission.

During the two-day workshop, Purdue will highlight the interactive website, nanoHUB.org, and its success in disseminating and sharing research simulations globally. The work is associated with nanoHUB.org, which makes available scientific simulations, seminars, interactive courses and other specialized nanotech-related materials. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN), a six-university network funded by the NSF and based at Purdue, operates nanoHUB.

The SRC's 30 years of success in fostering research between industry and universities also will be showcased. The Durham, N.C.-based organization has been instrumental in expanding the industry knowledge base and attracting premier students to help innovate and transfer semiconductor technology to the industry. Recently, the SRC launched the Energy Research Initiative, which is working to bring its experience in managing industry and academic partnerships for addressing the fundamental problems of energy generation, transmission and storage.

Event co-organizer Pankaj Sharma, managing director of the Energy Center in Discovery Park, said the workshop also will highlight Purdue's partnership role in a newly funded DOE program, Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States (SERIIUS).

This $50 million consortium on the U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy R&D Center on Solar Energy is led by Larry Kazmerski, who is executive director for Science and Technology Partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

"The institute's goal is to accelerate development, at a lower cost per watt, of photovoltaics and concentrated solar power," Sharma said. "This bi-national consortium is focused on readying emerging disruptive and revolutionary solar technologies that span the gap between fundamental science and applied R&D, leading to sustainable industries."

For a complete workshop schedule, visit https://nanohub.org/groups/pvworkshop.

With funding from the SRC, Purdue launched the Network for Photovoltaic Technology in July 2011 to build on previous research by Lundstrom and Ashraf Alam, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering. They are applying to photovoltaics the same developed advanced models for predicting the performance and reliability of new designs for silicon transistors. 

Alam, who co-directs the Purdue Network for Photovoltaic Technology, said computational models and simulations are helping researchers test concepts and reliability in an effort to accelerate the aging of solar cells to see how long they will last.

"Estimates for the cost of photovoltaics assume the cells will only last for 20 to 30 years, but what if they're more likely to last 60 years?" Alam said. "The cost landscape among competing clean technologies would be altered dramatically as a result." 

The Purdue-led network, based at Discovery Park's Birck Nanotechnology Center, also aims to train and educate students, providing them with the expertise and skills needed to transition these new methods into the marketplace. The initiative also includes a smart grid research center at Carnegie Mellon University to support the incorporation of renewable energy resources and provide modeling, simulation and control tools needed to manage, optimize and secure the power grid.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

              Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources: Mark Lundstrom, 765-494-3515, lundstro@purdue.edu

               Ashraf Alam, 765-494-6441, alam@purdue.edu

               Pankaj Sharma, 765-496-7452, sharma@purdue.edu

Photo:  Professor Mark Lundstrom

Related webiste:
Photovoltaics HUB

Note to Journalists: Reporters interested in covering the workshop, "Challenges in Photovoltaic Science, Technology and Manufacturing: A Focus on the Role of Theory, Modeling and Simulation," can contact Phillip Fiorini of the Purdue News Service at 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu.

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