NSF Grant Expands Next Generation Photovoltaics Center in Partnership with Texas A&M

Research holds a solar cell in the labIt does not require a force as powerful as the sun to get The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University to work together, but it certainly helps. UT Austin’s Next Generation Photovoltaics Center will add a new solar research site at Texas A&M University thanks to a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The four-year, $400,000 grant was awarded to three Texas A&M University System members to help address the technical and non-technical challenges in the widespread adoption of solar technology, also known as photovoltaics. The new research site is part of the Next Generation Photovoltaics Center, which is led by Texas chemical engineering Professor Brian Korgel and aims to establish solar power as a major source of energy in the United States and the world.

The center is one of only 80 industry/university cooperative research centers supported by the NSF and is the only such center focused on solar research. In addition to the UT Austin and Texas A&M research sites, the center includes sites at Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines.

“The center has become a world-leading portal for solar research, fostering innovation, adoption of emerging solar cell technology, economic development and job creation,” said Center Director Brian Korgel. “It’s fitting that our state’s powerhouse universities should work together in this way to benefit Texans and others for generations to come.”

Research conducted by center sites is focused in four areas: photovoltaic materials, devices and manufacturing; balance of systems and photovoltaic implementation; photovoltaic integration with storage and electric vehicles; and education and societal impact of photovoltaics. The Texas A&M sites bring expertise especially in balance of systems and big data analysis.

Leadership from the center and solar advocates, such as Korgel, has helped make Texas a top 10 state for new solar projects, job growth and development. Establishing another solar research site at Texas A&M will help continue to bring expertise and funding to Texas and take the center one step closer to its goal of becoming the world’s leading source for photovoltaic research.

“This is an astonishing center, with five universities, a Texas state agency, over 100 faculty members and over 300 students at the postdoctoral, doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s levels all working on solar energy research,” said Texas A&M-Central Texas Vice President for Research and Economic Development Russell Porter, a Co-director of the Texas A&M site. “And we have over 20 private companies, non-governmental organizations and government organizations providing funds to support the research. It is truly an honor to be a part of such an important, collaborative effort.”

Despite their long-standing rivalry, UT Austin and Texas A&M have numerous synergies when it comes to renewable energy and engineering education.

“Our center is creating technologies that will make the world less reliant on fossil fuels and improve our environment,” said Korgel. “These are big and important challenges, requiring expertise in a number of different disciplines. Bringing Texas A&M on board is great for both universities, it’s great for Texas and it’s great for the future of solar technology.”

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