UK and India sign deal for solar-cell development

UK and Indian ministers have agreed to fund research to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy devices.

UK minister for business, innovation and skills Pat McFadden and Indian minister for science and technology Prithviraj Chavan announced the new collaboration while chairing the bilateral India-UK Science and Innovation Council in New Delhi.

McFadden said: “As well as helping the UK to meet its 2020 goals, it will complement India’s ambitious plans to deploy 20 million solar lighting systems to 10,000 villages and hamlets currently without access to grid electricity. This will spur advances in healthcare, education and productivity through the creation of new jobs.”

Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST) have each committed up to £5m each over a three-year period for two research projects:

One is to improve the efficiency and production of excitonic solar cells: focusing on the development of materials, structures, processing and photovoltaic panel engineering of excitonic solar cells - a class of non-conventional solar cell based on new types of materials. It will build on existing research in both the UK and India to develop cheaper and higher volume solar cell manufacture. RCUK and DST have awarded £2.5m each for this project.

The second will address the stability and performance of photovoltaics: focusing on improving materials supply and developing better designs to ultimately create cheaper and more efficient devices than current solar cells. RCUK and DST have awarded £2.4m each for this project.

The solar energy projects form part of the RCUK Energy Programme led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Neil Bateman, EPSRC energy portfolio manager, said: “These projects represent a new and exciting collaboration between some of the leading photovoltaics researchers in the UK and India. The research is targeted to push the science of solar energy towards cheaper, more reliable and sustainable electricity production in a wide variety of settings.”

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