Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Solar technology

This research area covers the research and development of devices to harness incident solar radiation for conversion to other energy vectors or for direct use.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Research and development of devices to harness incident solar radiation for conversion to other energy vectors or for direct use. Including solar thermal, heating and cooling, and all photovoltaic (PV) technologies, this research area also encompasses relevant socio-economic and environmental issues as part of design considerations (for example public acceptability of large-scale deployment of solar cells in the built environment).

This area only includes research building on proof-of-principle validated materials, for example optimisation of materials and devices, technology development, structural materials development and materials engineering.

Research into fundamental new and novel materials for current and future energy technologies is not included in this area, which is covered by Materials for energy applications.

We will continue to support a breadth of solar technology research, a key energy generation technology which is, and will continue contributing to the cost effective and efficient decarbonisation of the energy system, not just in the UK but internationally.

Our research will include:

  • a greater focus on thin films, flexible PV and the utilisation of new materials (offering increased power conversion efficiencies, better stability, lower costs)
  • transferable skills from other topics within the research area (such as crystalline silicon, dye-sensitised cells)
  • solar fuels, solar thermal and floating solar as emerging research areas
  • recognising the importance of systems integration.

We will encourage the community to collaborate with groups and organisations outside this area to identify and address joint energy challenges and to widen their knowledge and skill sets.

Industry links

The solar community has been particularly successful in building links with industry, where the delivery of joint projects has strengthened UK solar capabilities and provided a route for technology development at higher technology readiness levels (TRLs). We will continue to support and provide resources, where necessary, to help accelerate commercialisation of novel technologies into UK and international markets.

Materials sciences

Significant advances in solar technology have arisen from underpinning materials sciences. This research area will work in conjunction with the Materials for Energy Applications area to continue supporting design and development of new and existing materials to push for greater power conversion for solar technology applications.

This research area is also recognised as potentially relevant to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Why we're doing it

The need for solar technology research is reflected in a range of official documents (including energy reports and roadmaps) that feed into future UK energy strategies.

Research in solar technology has potential to reduce the levelised cost of electricity to the consumer, meet UK energy demands, and achieve environmental targets as part of a balanced, flexible, sustainable, cost-effective, renewable system.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) is deployed in a variety of locations (for example domestic rooves, industrial properties, solar farms). As a result, consumers can generate their own power and continued support for research in this area will assist development of new device architectures with the potential to address current and future challenges, and will increase the efficiency of technologies for a range of applications. The most promising material of recent times, perovskites, offers a step change in power conversion efficiencies.

The UK has an excellent profile in perovskites and organic PV, and pockets of particular strength in thin-film PV. EPSRC should continue building and strengthening international links and take steps to remain internationally competitive (in the face of competition from China and the US especially). This programme has previously engaged with India in solar projects as part of the Newton Fund.

This area has close links with other research areas:

Given the size of this area’s portfolio relative to the energy landscape and EPSRC’s portfolio overall, its potential contribution to meeting key UK carbon targets and its fostering of transferable skills within multiple disciplines, it should be a maintained research area.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Solar Technology.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 6 January 2023

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