Two top solar innovators honoured at national engineering awards

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UNSW researchers and graduates continue to attract accolades for their pioneering solar PV R&D and advocacy. Associate Professor Xiaojing Hao, a global leader in kesterite cells, and Julian O’Shea, a UNSW alumni who is currently attempting a circumnavigation of the world in a solar powered tuk tuk, were recently praised for their work by Engineers Australia.

Associate Professor Hao, a Scientia Fellow in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering and winner of the NSW Premier’s Prize for Science and Engineering, has been again recognised for her world-leading research into kesterite materials, a cheaper and more sustainable PV semiconductor.

“It is an honour to be named one of the country’s leading engineers in this fascinating field,” said Hao, “and this achievement would not be possible without the hard work and talent of my team.”

In recent years Hao and her team have been consistently pushing the level of kesterite cell efficiency, breaking the 10% barrier in 2017 and continuing to make advancements with this flexible, low-cost and non-toxic material. Hao believes she can push kesterite above 20% in the near future. “I hope that this technology can be deployed more widely both in Australia and globally,” Hao said.

Julian, second from left, with the SolarTuk team.

Photo: UNSW

On the same night, Julian O’Shea, an alum of the UNSW postgraduate program in Engineering Science (2008) and co-founder of SolarTuk Expedition, a solar tuk tuk circumnavigation of the globe to promote sustainable mobility. “It’s an honour to be recognised in this forum and is fantastic recognition for everyone involved in the SolarTuk Expedition,” said O’Shea, “this has been a crazy project, and it’s great to see it engage and inspire people across Australia and the globe.”

The SolarTuk, which tops out at 50kmph, was modified into a solar EV, producing zero emissions and has already completed a 3,000km journey from Melbourne to the Great Barrier Reef.