A pair of married Australian academics specializing in the development of solar power technology have received a joint award for their contributions to the field and for their pivotal role in the development of China’s photovoltaics industry.
Dr. Jianhua Zhao and Dr. Aihua Wang, both of whom studied at the University of New South Wales, are joint winners of an Advance Global Australian Award for their efforts in advancing photovoltaic cell technology.
Scientia professor Martin Green, the director of UNSW’s ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence, lauded their contribution to the development of photovoltaic technology, helping to make Australia a world leader in the field.
“They took us to the position where we can now make the most efficient cells in the world and nobody yet has been able to catch up,” Green said. “They are both well-respected internationally and have played an influential role in establishing China as a major producer of solar power and PV technology.”
Zhao completed his PhD in electric engineering at UNSW under Green in 1989, and maintained close ties to his alma mater as a lecturer, researcher and associate professor until 2006. He is currently the chief technology officer and director of China Sunergy, a China-based solar cell manufacturing company he co-founded in 2004.
China Sunergy is a family affair, with Zhao’s wife Wang serving as China Sunergy’s vice president of research and development.
The husband and wife team established several records in solar technology during their time at UNSW, with one of the most noteworthy being the development of the high efficiency crystallised Silicon PERL cell in 1999, which was capable of 25 per cent energy conversion efficiency.
Zhao and Wang were not the only UNSW alumni active in the field of solar technology who were nominated for an Advance Global Australian Award.
Andrew Birch, who completed his Master’s degree in solar energy at UNSW, is a co-founder of San Francisco-based Sungevity, the third largest solar PV retailer in the US retail segment and the first to design residential solar power systems based on satellite imagery.
Dr. Richard Corkish, head of the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering at UNSW, said the flourishing careers of its solar energy alumni demonstrate Australia’s strong prowess in the area.
“Australia as a whole has the potential to become a thriving hub for solar energy and should embrace the challenge,” Corkish said.