University of Limerick research could help to harness solar power

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

Researchers at the University of Limerick have developed a cost effective solution to generate innovative solar energy conversion materials.

Researchers at the University of Limerick have developed a cost effective solution to generate innovative solar energy conversion materials.

Led by Dr Kevin M Ryan, the research was conducted at the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at UL and recently received €700,000 in funding from Science Foundation Ireland.

It is estimated the solar industry is worth over €100 billion globally and is the fastest growing energy-sector.

Less than 1% of the world’s energy requirements are currently being met by solar energy - due mainly to the high cost of production of efficient photovoltaic cells.

The most sought after materials for solar energy conversion are copper-indium-galium-disulfide (CIGS) and di-copper-zinc-tin-tetrasulphide (CZTS) however the current methods of making these materials requires prohibitively expensive technologies.

But the research being conducted at UL has identified a possible solution to the cost barrier.

“This technology has significant impacts for energy generation world-wide. We have developed a low-cost laboratory method of forming both CIGS and CZTS in nanorod form which can maximise solar absorption. 250 billion of these rods for example will fit on the head of a pin and our technology essentially allows us process these as an ink to form densely packed forests of these nanorods over very large areas optimised to harness the abundant solar power available,” said Dr Ryan.

The research conducted at UL was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through the principal investigator programme.

Funding was also allocated from the Strategic Research Cluster in Solar Energy Conversion involving University of Limerick, UCD and DCU.

The research work was recently published in the highly ranked journals ACS NANO and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.