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Durham does £3.6 million cheaper solar project

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Despite the prevailing tabloid wisdom, universities are not just good for consuming watered down beer and keeping down the population of traffic cones, as Durham University is showing this week.

A national team of scientists are embarking on one of the UK’s largest ever research projects into photovoltaic (PV) solar energy.

The £6.3million PV-21 programme, led by experts at Durham University, will focus on making thin-film light absorbing cells for solar panels from sustainable and affordable materials.

And Durham will be doing it with a little help from its friends: Bangor, Bath, Cranfield, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Northumbria and Southampton Universities.

At present solar cells – used to convert light energy into electricity – are made from key components such as the rare and expensive metal indium which costs approximately £320 ($660) per kilogram. To cut costs in solar cell production the research team will work to reduce the thickness of the cells.

Making a solar semiconductor thinner by one millionth of a metre in solar cells generating one gigawatt of power could save 50 tonnes of material.Researchers will also experiment with sustainable low-cost materials which could be used in the manufacturing of solar cells and on the use of nanotechnology and dyes on ultra-thin silicon to capture increased amounts of energy from the sun’s rays.

The project starts now and will last for four years. Greenbang suggests they start with paper clips. You can make anything out of paper clips.

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