Graduate Program in Materials Engineering and Technology seeks solutions to reduce costs of photovoltaic systems
Brazil reached the mark of 300,000 consuming units of solar energy. The data, which have been recently published by Associação Brasileira de Energia Solar Fotovoltaica (Absolar), show a major step forward in the country in recent years – but there is still much more space for this market to grow. To make this possible, researchers and students at different levels have dedicated themselves to studies in the Multidisciplinary Research Group in Solar Energy Technology (NT-SOLAR) of PUCRS’ School of Technology.
Created in 1997, NT-Solar is the only R&D center in Latin America designed for the creation and characterization of photovoltaic cells and modules on a pilot-scale. Headed by professors Dr. Adriano Moehlecke and Dr. Izete Zanesco, NT-Solar is home to several students in the Graduate Program in Materials Engineering and Technology – (PGETEMA).
The professors claim that solar energy studies is an interdisciplinary are of study, as it brings together students from different areas of Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, for instance. “A positive aspect of the project is that students are there in all stages of the process, from the manufacturing of the solar cell, installation and analysis of the systems. In other words, we are directly connected with the market ”, points out Moehlecke.
In times of economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, thinking about sustainable alternatives for energy generation seems to make even more sense. According to Dr. Zanesco, photovoltaic systems are no longer as costly as they used to be. This, consequently, makes it even more competitive, earns it more space in the market and increases the demand for professionals. “We can see photovoltaic systems as an investment for the future. For instance, in five years’ time, we will have paid off for all the investment that has been made if we pay the lowest electricity fee rate”, he highlights.
Currently, companies offer a 25-year warranty for photovoltaic modules, but the truth is that their life expectancy is not yet known – it may be 50 years, for example. “Consumers can become energy producers and become independent from the energy”, Izete adds. She claims that, in addition to the economic aspect, the conversion of solar energy is an efficient way to preserve the environment.
Thais Crestani, a PhD student in the PGETEMA, started her research on photovoltaic solar energy as she was working on her Master’s, in 2014, at PUCRS. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, she never thought about pursuing a graduate degree in Engineering until she learned about the possibility of developing research focused on the environment. “Being able to study ways to produce electricity with fewer costs and with fewer steps in the process of manufacturing solar cells gave me a real motivation to continue research on solar photovoltaic energy in my PhD. Today, I am studying and trying to develop devices that generate less waste in the process of cell process and that, by reducing the steps, makes production cheaper ”, she says.
Another investigation that is looking to reduce production costs in photovoltaic systems is being headed by graduate student Augusto dos Santos Kochenborger. “I am working on the optimization of thermal steps in the manufacturing of solar cells, that is, I am working to improve the production process of the main components of the photovoltaic modules, which transform solar energy directly into electrical energy. With this, the devices can be manufactured in shorter time, thus generating less cost ”, he says.
Augusto, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Engineering, is very concerned about the environment, as he considers research in the area important to bring the efficiency of the devices to a higher level of quality. “This would increase the possibilities of producing energy from clean sources”, he concludes.
For Thais, the conversion of solar energy is what the future holds: “Photovoltaic systems can be installed in the most remote places in the world, where there is no access to electricity, for example”. The student, who defended her dissertation in 2016, is competing for the Connection to the Market and Popular Engagement awards, promoted by Rede Sapiens, with the work she developed as a PGETEMA student.
Registrations for Master’s and Doctoral degrees are now open in the Graduate Program in Engineering and Materials Technology. There are two the areas of concentration: Engineering and Technology of Materials and Materials and Related Processes. The deadline ends on Jun 19. All materials must be submitted online.