Cancer claims UNSW solar pioneer Stuart Wenham

Skin cancer has claimed the life of one of Australia’s leading solar PV researchers. The UNSW’s Professor Stuart Wenham passed away last week, having been diagnosed with cancer only four months earlier.

Wenham’s UNSW colleagues are mourning his loss, including his daughter Alison Ciesla, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the UNSW School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering.

Martin Green, Wenham’s former teacher and long-time collaborator and friend, noted that the late researcher was a “very positive person” who possessed “insightful humour.”

“He was also a brilliant and creative researcher, able to see patterns in results that eluded most of us, and new ways of capitalising on these;” said Green in a statement.

Wenham had pioneered the Advanced Hydrogenation passivation technique, which could be deployed to moderate or prevent efficiency declines in PERC and a range of other high efficiency PV technologies. It involved using lasers to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms within crystalline silicon PV cells, limiting the impacts of Light Induced Degradation (LID).

At the 2017 SNEC, Wenham told pv magazine that he had hoped to commercialize a process for Advanced Hydrogenation in multicrystalline PV cells, with the UNSW’s industry partners on the project, within six to twelve months.

To commercialise the Advanced Hydrogenation, Wenham had brought together eight PV industry partners including China’s Golden Concord Ltd and Xi’an LONGi Silicon Materials Corp.

Wenham had served under UNSW School of Photovoltaics graduate and former student Shi Zhengrong as Suntech’s CTO for 10 years, during its period of rapid growth to market leader.

“Stuart was an amazing innovator, a considerate friend and a passionate mentor,” Shi said. “Stuart will be remembered as a great global solar leader who made solar affordable and accessible to everyone.”

Earlier this month, Wenham’s team at the UNSW was awarded a $7.83 million ARENA grant to advance its work on recombination analysis and solar cell passivation technology. His daughter Alison Ciesla is working on the project.

The UNSW will hold a memorial service for Wenham on Monday 8 January 2018 at its Kensignton Campus.