Dvořák Lecture by Marko Topič

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In the quest for a sustainable and decarbonized future, renewable energy sources have emerged as the key pillars of modern energy systems. Solar photovoltaic offers a vision of a world powered by 100% renewable electricity, where access to electricity is universal. It plays a vital role in meeting various energy demands, from communication and transportation to heating and synthetic fuels. Marko Topič's lecture covered several topics related to solar cells and photovoltaics.

Topič presented the success story of the Laboratory of Photovoltaics and Optoelectronics (LPVO), which started with two PhD students and has now grown to include many researchers, managers, and entrepreneurs. The Laboratory is the largest PV research group in the country. Their work encompasses the entire optimization loop, covering modeling, optoelectronic analysis, fabrication, and advanced characterization of high-efficiency perovskite solar cells (PSCs). He mentioned the impact of LPVO's work in the industry, citing the example of BISOL, one of the top five producers of photovoltaic (PV) modules in Europe, which emerged from the lab. They are developing monitoring solutions for both photovoltaic modules and small lad scale solar cells.

Solar PV's Role in Achieving Clean Energy Targets

Solar PV is at the forefront of the European Union's clean energy targets and global climate change mitigation efforts. With its global installed power capacity surpassing one terawatt (1 TW = 1000 GW) last year, solar photovoltaics is entering the multi-terawatt era. This milestone reflects the immense growth potential and increasing recognition of solar photovoltaics as a major contributor to clean and sustainable energy systems. The focus is on the interplay of science, engineering, and technology in bringing basic research achievements to practical applications for energy transition.

The cost of electricity generated by photovoltaics has decreased logarithmically over the past five decades, making it the lowest-cost source in Europe. The growth in the photovoltaics market has been rapid, with a 20% increase in cumulative power capacity in just one year. It has been recognized as a key solution for reducing CO2 emissions and is economically and environmentally competitive.

The vision for 2050 includes photovoltaics covering two-thirds of renewable energy sources, not only through direct electricity generation but also via synthetic fuels. It is emphasized that waiting is not an option, and photovoltaics must continue to grow at a rate of 25% annually to achieve climate change targets. The goal of reaching 1 terawatt of PV production per year is achievable in the next 4-5 years without any significant bottlenecks.

One of the key advantages of solar photovoltaics is the ubiquitous availability of sunlight. The Earth receives an enormous amount of solar radiation, making it an abundant and virtually limitless energy source. The ability to harness this energy, even in regions with relatively lower levels of solar irradiation, has been significantly improved through advancements in photovoltaic technology.

Optical Optimization and Energy Yield Analysis

Optical optimization techniques are being explored to maximize the efficiency of perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells. These cells combine the complementary absorption properties of perovskite and silicon to achieve higher overall energy conversion efficiency. Furthermore, energy yield analysis of single-junction and tandem PSCs provides insights into their performance in different environmental conditions and helps optimize their design for real-world applications.

During the Q&A session, Topič addressed various questions. He discussed the progress in tandem solar cells, their potential for higher efficiencies, and the challenges in upscaling and improving stability.

Topič expressed optimism about bringing PV production back to Europe, emphasizing the need for political support, funding, and a well-established research ecosystem. He also mentioned the importance of energy storage solutions such as batteries and artificial fuel technologies to address the issue of fluctuating energy production from solar cells. Overall, the lecture provided insights into the work of the LPVO lab, the challenges and advancements in solar cell technologies, and the collaboative efforts needed to drive the growth of photovoltaics.