State awards solar research grant to UT, BGSUWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) has awarded an $8.9 million grant to UT and BGSU to support additional research in photovoltaic science, the conversion of sunlight to electricity.
UT and BGSU are collaborating to develop solar power from photovoltaic research at both universities in response to the growing demand for alternative energy sources.
“The goal is to improve the efficiency of solar cells being developed in research at both universities,” said Robert Collins, a professor of physics and astronomy, who was the principal investigator for the grant proposal at UT.
“The proposal builds on existing faculty strengths at both UT and BGSU to broaden our capabilities in second-generation (thin film) and third-generation (molecular and nano-structured) photovoltaics,” Collins said.
The universities will use the funds to attract prominent new faculty for photonics, a subarea of photovoltaics that explores the atomic scale to determine how solar energy is absorbed from sunlight and converted into electricity on a molecular level.
“These faculty members will be world experts in photovoltaics,” said Collins. “UT and BGSU hold leadership positions in many areas of scientific research in photovoltaics.”
The state approved the funds for the research grant and finalized the contract between the ODOD and UT with a subcontract to BGSU, according to ODOD officials.
The schools will advertise for the positions and plan to hire qualified faculty this fall, said Collins.
“We’re trying to attract intellectual talent to Northwest Ohio and hopefully retain those individuals in the region,” said Felix Castellano, a professor of chemistry who is involved in photovoltaic research with Paul Anzenbacher at BGSU.
Castellano and Anzenbacher are recommending that BGSU hire two additional researchers with its $1.7 million portion of the grant.
“The collaborative project is a regional effort to bring in new faculty and ultimately contribute to Northwest Ohio’s economic development,” Collins said.
He reported that $2.5 million of the grant will fund an endowed chair professor in photovoltaics through the UT Foundation.
Another $4 million will be used for research equipment and facilities. More lab space will be available due to the recently completed second phase of labs in the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator at UT.
Another faculty member in this area and the associated equipment obtained with the grant would be useful to Toledo area industry partners on the grant, including Calyxo USA, Pilkington and Xunlight among several other Ohio-based companies, said Collins.
“The collaborative effort is important to promote local and state economic development in green technologies not only achieving energy security on a national but a global level as well,” Collins said.
“We have had a very successful history of working together productively,” said Castellano about the relationship between researchers at BGSU and UT.
The grant is expected to fund a three-year collaborative project, but the attracted faculty, equipment and facilities will have a lasting impact on UT’s academic and research programs in the photovoltaic field, Collins said.
“The grant will help solidify UT’s position as one of the top academic institutions in the world for research, development and demonstration of thin-film photovoltaic materials and devices,” Collins said.
“UT is No. 2 to MIT based on alternative energy research and technology being developed there,” said Mark Erickson, COO of Buckeye Silicon, a new firm that plans to open a silicon production facility for photovoltaic use at UT’s Center for Advanced Renewable Energy.
The $8.9 million grant was one of 10 awarded to collaborations of universities, private colleges and industry partners that received funds for 26 new research scholars with $143 million allocated through the Ohio Research Scholars Program in 2008.
The Ohio State University Research Foundation, leading a partnership with UT, Case Western Reserve and Ohio University, was awarded $10 million to establish a collaborative cluster in Advanced Energy Systems in the state.
UT previously received an $18.6 million grant in 2007 for the establishment of the Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization located in the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator on the corner of Dorr Street and Westwood Avenue.