University of New South Wales, Australia
SUMMARY OF WINNING ENTRY
Pioneering the breakthrough in green energy production with the invention of solar cells enhanced by Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact (PERC) technology
The improvement of the solar cells efficiency ushered in an era of productive renewable energy harvestation, thereby contributing to a more equitable and sustainable world. Silicon solar cell technology has been developed over decades by various innovators; however, modern high-efficiency solar cells mostly rely on the Passive Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology pioneered by Professor Martin Green‘s team. This group’s groundbreaking research has significantly enhanced the efficiency of solar cells, paving the way for wider adoption of solar energy. Their innovations include reducing photon loss through a back surface reflector, a combination of a dielectric layer and a thin metal layer that minimizes photon absorption. Additionally, they have developed back surface passivation techniques, employing dielectric layers or heterojunction structures to reduce carrier loss. These advancements culminated in the development of Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact (PERC) technology, which optimizes solar cell performance and demonstrates the feasibility of integrating these advanced technologies into mass production.
SCALE OF IMPACT
Before Professor Martin Green’s revolutionary work, solar cells struggled with a paltry 15% efficiency. The breakthroughs achieved by his team allowed the energy conversion rate of solar cells to reach the modern 25% rate. Since being mass-produced in 2012, PERC solar cells have held over 60% of the worldwide solar cell market share. Between 2010 and 2022, the share of solar energy has increased 18-fold (to 14.7%) in the global energy mix, contributing greatly to the transition away from fossil fuels.
This efficiency improvement has expanded the applicability of solar technology, even for areas with limited sunlight conditions, turning solar energy into a key factor in the sustainable development process. Moreover, the enhancement of energy production efficiency and refined production processes have allowed the technology to achieve cost-effective self-sustainability, thereby accelerating the transition to renewable energy. Furthermore, these optimized and affordable solar panel products have brought new hopes to impoverished and remote areas, opening new opportunities to access renewable energy and addressing energy shortages, thereby significantly contributing to equitable development globally.