PVSAT-13 Bangor

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Conference Report

Article by Nigel Mason, PV Consulting Ltd

Bangor was a delight. Once again PVSAT justified its claim to be the UK’s premier annual scientific conference on solar PV on the occasion of PVSAT-13 at the University of Bangor. For the third year running, we again held a Postdoctoral Training Workshop on the day preceding the conference so that student delegates could attend both events and keep costs down. This year PVSAT hosted a symposium on Printed Photovoltaics that was sponsored by Sêr Solar. The conference was opened by the vice chancellor of the university, Professor John G Hughes.

First the stats. This year 95 delegates listened to presentations by invited international guest speakers, 33 contributory speakers and 29 poster presentations. Perovskite PV technologies were clear winners in this year’s category for most papers (17), beating CdTe with just 7 papers. Presentations on other PV semiconductor materials included CZTS (4 papers), CIGS (2), SbSe/SnSe (2), OPV (3), Q-dots (3), dye-sensitised (1), III/V materials (2) and other technologies (8). In other categories, 7 papers were presented on system monitoring and performance and some 6 papers on aspects of module design or characterisation.

Our principal guest speaker was Professor Christophe Ballif, Director of the PV laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Director of PV Development at Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM) in Neuchâtel. Prof Ballif won the Becquerel Prize in 2016 for scientific, technical or managerial accomplishments in the development of solar energy. He gave an amusing and poignant lecture entitled On sea, in the air and on land: when will everything become solar? This took the audience from current global energy challenges to the latest developments in the solar PV field that offer some realistic solutions.

Our other guest speakers were: Prof Hongwei Han, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, China, who spoke on stable fully printable mesoscopic perovskite solar cells, Dr Karsten Walzer, Heliatek GmbH, who spoke on the commercial production of organic solar films and Prof Paul Meredith, Sêr Cymru Chair in Sustainable Advanced Materials at Swansea University and until very recently a Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, who spoke on Scaling Physics of Thin Film Solar Cells. Dr Marco Raugei, Oxford Brookes University, gave a talk on Net Energy Analysis of Photovoltaics and Dr Ian Forbes, Northumbria University, presented the latest developments in the field of kesterite thin film PV cells. The host lecture was given by Dr Jeff Kettle, Bangor University, on the stability of organic solar cells (OPVs).

Of the many excellent contributory papers presented there is space to mention just a few; Dan Lamb (Swansea) reported the first ever results of a project to evaluate CdTe thin film cells for deep-space satellite missions. Today’s space cells are typically multi-junction devices based on III/V semiconductors but CdTe thin film PV offers exceptional high performance-to-weight ratio demanded for space applications. The first flight test of these “made in Wales” cells was launched on a UK-built satellite last year and the initial results are both encouraging and challenging in that the cell’s space performance at 4C is better than predicted by terrestrial behaviour. An excellent group of presentations under the Sêr Solar Symposium on Printed PV covered competing methods of fabricating perovskite cells and sparked a lively debate on whether spray coating, adopted by many institutes, was the best solution for large scale fabrication. Cell efficiencies continue to increase; small additions of cobalt to metal halide perovskite cells was reported to produce 17.2% efficient devices (Matt Klug, Oxford), 44% efficient 3-Junction III/V concentrator cells at 1000-sun concentration were reported (Andy Johnson, IQE), and a 32.8% efficient GaAs/Si-HIT tandem cell at standard 1-sun illumination shows great potential for extending the performance range of industry-leading silicon-based devices.

The conference dinner was held at Chateau Rhianfa on the isle of Anglesey. Here we were entertained by live music performed by Trio Canig, three tenors from Anglesey. The dinner is also where we traditionally present prizes for the best papers and posters. This year the Best Poster prize was awarded for the paper “Process Development of Sublimated Cu-free CdTe Solar Cells” by C. Potamialis, F. Lisco, B. Maniscalco, M. Togay, J. W. Bowers and J. M. Walls, Loughborough University; the Institute of Physics Best Student Poster was awarded for the paper “Dye sensitized Schottky barrier devices on steel“ by Niamh Ryall, R. Crook, J. Weinstein, University of Leeds and the Best Paper prize was awarded for the paper “Novel deposition method to print binder-free inks on large scale perovskite solar cell modules” by Simone Meroni, Youmna Mouhamad, Francesca De Rossi, Ren´an Escalante, Jenny Baker, Gerko Oskam and Trystan Watson, Swansea University.

Conference exhibitors included IET Journals, Newport, IQE/CSC and Bentham Instruments. Another first for PVSAT-13 was the coverage of some aspects of our conference by BBC Radio Wales’ Science Café programme that was aired on 16th April. The programme will be available on the BBC i-player until 22nd May 2017 /www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08mp2kc.

PVSAT is, as always, very grateful to our sponsors for supporting the event and helping to keep the student fee for conference attendance to a minimum. This year’s sponsors were: IET Journals, IQE & Compound Semiconductor Centre, Royal Society of Chemistry: Energy Sector Group, Supergen SuperSolar, Sêr Solar, M.SPARC, ERN Wales, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training and The Institute of Physics: Materials & Characterisation Group.

PVSAT-14 will be held at Imperial College London, in April 2017 on dates to be confirmed. Further information will be available at www.pvsat.org.uk.

Nigel B Mason, Conference Chair

Date: May 3, 2017, 8:21 a.m.