Solar technology: Always up to date with the current state of research
The world’s first scientific database for photovoltaic technology recently went online. The idea for the database came from researchers at FAU and its aim is to accelerate advances in photovoltaic research.
If we are ever to move away completely from nuclear energy and coal, we must secure our energy supply from other more environmentally-friendly sources. This is where photovoltaics (PV) comes in. This technology uses solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The benefits of the technology are obvious: On the one hand, the energy we receive from the sun is completely free of charge. On the other, the materials used do not have to be mined at great cost to the environment, as is the case with fossil and atomic fuels.
Closing the gap in photovoltaics research
Over 500 gigawatts of electrical energy is already being produced across the globe using photovoltaics. In hardly any other field is research striving more actively to make the materials used even more efficient than in the field of photovoltaics. Until now, however, new developments in innovative photovoltaic technologies have not been recorded systematically. This is what Dr. Osbel Almora Rodriguez, who gained his doctoral degree at the Institute of Materials for Electronics and Energy Technology (i-MEET) in Erlangen in 2020, discovered. He came up with the idea to close this gap with his doctoral supervisor, Prof. Dr. Christoph Brabec, who is Chair of Materials Science at FAU, Director of Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZ Jülich) as well as Director of the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg for Renewable Energy (HI ERN), and who mobilised a further 25 international researchers from his network for the project. In collaboration with the journal ‘Advanced Energy Materials’, the group devised a concept for a comprehensive database to record the current state of research in photovoltaics and make its contents available in a clear format. The database called ‘Emerging PV Reports’ went online in 2021 and it enables the global photovoltaic community to find relevant publications more easily. For example, searches can be performed of specific characteristics such as transparency, band gap, flexibility or stability. The database’s integrated visualisation tools means it is now easier than before to compare such material parameters.
By researchers for researchers
The initiators of the database believe that it has made a significant contribution to accelerating the progress of research into photovoltaics. A comparative data basis is essential for developing new technologies from scientific findings. ‘Our mission is to create a central database by researchers for researchers. Anyone working in research in the field of photovoltaics is therefore welcome to submit their work,’ emphasises Prof. Brabec. All work that has already undergone the peer review process and that includes over 30 pieces of detailed information from at least five different categories can be submitted to the database. ‘We have high quality standards. After all, we also want to eliminate sources of misinformation with this database,’ explains Prof. Brabec. ‘For example, if you hear about some new amazing material for photovoltaics, but don’t find it in ‘Emerging PV Reports’, you should be cautious!’ Checking all submissions to the database is time consuming, but essential in order to ensure the latest findings in research are all included reliably. ‘We would therefore welcome support from specialists in the field of photovoltaics, and also from people in other disciplines such as computer science, so that we can continue to develop the database,’ says Prof. Brabec.