Climate Change Challenge - tackling climate change and fuel poverty Follow uk8020org on Twitter

Domain for sale -

tomorrow's  challenge  today

Patron  Madonna                 not for profit organisation, please support this site


Resource Centre

News Centre

Save Energy


The Green Shop

Support Us



Green Invention News

Green scientist scoops inventor of the year award
24 April 09

Back to News Home

A scientist who established Australia's first solar cell production line has won an American award for his outstanding contribution to solar technology. At a black-tie ceremony in Sydney last night, Professor Stuart Wenham, who heads the University of New South Wales photovoltaic centre of excellence, was also named the university's inaugural inventor of the year and its top environmental science inventor.

He won the main $20,000 award from a short list of 11 finalists - all of whom have invented technologies that are now commercialised - beating stiff competition from biomedicine, information technology and engineering. Returning from China this week, where he leads technology innovation for solar cell manufacturing giant SunTech, Professor Wenham said Australia was lagging behind other countries in developing solar technology markets.

"We have fantastic potential to generate new jobs around solar and other renewable energies. But the big challenge is that our electricity is relatively cheap, and there is little incentive for governments to make the move from coal," he said. Professor Wenham said China was taking the future potential of solar energy "very seriously indeed", and was now a world leader in photovoltaic manufacture.

The industry is now worth about $40 billion a year in China, and is growing at an annual rate of 50 % . SunTech, which employs 10,000 people, was created by University of New South Wales graduate Dr Zhengrong Shi to commercialise Australian solar cell technology. Professor Wenham said China was "determined to make it [solar] leading part of the country's energy future".

In a career spanning 25 years, he has invented, or co-invented, eight solar cell technologies that have been commercialised around the world, but none are currently manufactured in Australia. "We had hoped our thin film solar technology might be picked up here, but it ended up going offshore to be manufactured in Germany."

In 1983, Professor Wenham and his PhD supervisor co-invented the buried contact solar cell, a high-efficiency solar silicon cell with tiny, laser-etched grooves in which wires carrying the electric current are buried. It is ranked as one of Australia's top 100 inventions of the 20th century by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences.

His inventions include a screen-printed finger cell, improved solar cell manufacturing methods, depositing thin-film silicon cells on glass, and a high-energy conversion technology being commercialised by SunTech. In about six weeks Professor Wenham will head to Philadelphia to receive the William Cherry award from the United States Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for outstanding contributions to the advancement of photovoltaic science.

He would like to see some of his world-first solar inventions manufactured in Australia when the market receives the incentives needed to boost uptake of renewable energy. "Whether we end up with an emissions trading scheme, a carbon tax or a mix of both, it will finally have its heading in the right direction."

Back to News Home

Source: Gippsland FFG