April 12, 2010
Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore
That the world may face an energy crisis this century due to fossil fuel depletion, is now a well-accepted fact. Solar energy, identified as an inexhaustible source of energy for the foreseeable future, seems promising as a renewable energy resource.
The Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has announced a National Solar Mission wherein 20,000 MW of electricity will be produced using solar energy by 2020. In the 11th Five Year Plan, the Indian Government has emphasized research in key areas of solar energy conversion.
“The effective utilization and conversion of solar energy into useful electrical or chemical energy appears to be the best choice for reducing the growing energy demands,” stated Dr. Sriram, who recently convened an international conference on this topic at Amrita’s Coimbatore campus.
The two-day conference on photochemical conversion of solar energy drew invited speakers from institutions in Switzerland and USA and also the IITs, DRDO and other national labs. It highlighted research efforts in India and abroad on photochemical conversion of solar energy.
In his inaugural address at the conference, Dr. G. Sundararajan, Director, Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, reviewed technologies to convert solar energy into electricity, the challenges and opportunities in the Indian context.
The keynote address of the conference was delivered by Dr. Michael Graetzel, eminent Swiss scientist and creator of dye-based solar cells. One of the top ten most cited chemists in the world, Dr. Graetzel elaborated on his dye-sensitized “Graetzel cells”.
What are these cells? The cells use dye molecules as sensitizers on nano-crystalline semiconductor oxide particles sandwiched between two electrodes. When illuminated by sunlight, the dye molecules generate charge carriers that cause the flow of current.
“In all, technical sessions were delivered by more than a dozen renowned scientists hailing from Switzerland, Italy, USA, and various parts of India,” shared Dr. Sriram. “There was excellent interaction during the Q&A sessions that followed each technical presentation.”
The talks covered various cutting-edge areas such as mass production of PV modules, flexible CdTe and CIGS solar cells, solar photocatalysis, organic solar cells, thin film silicon solar cells, novel materials for photochemical conversion, dye-sensitized solar cells and polymer solar cells.
“I would say that the talks were very well appreciated by the keenly interested audience that recognized the top quality of the various presentations,” noted Dr. Sriram.
Poster sessions were also conducted that allowed students to present their research efforts to recognized experts from India and abroad.
Organized jointly by the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Electrical and Electronics Engineering, the conference was co-sponsored by the Indian Society for Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering (ISAMPE).
The conference concluded with a lively panel discussion. “This allowed participants to converge to a set of clear take-home messages regarding the current and future research focus areas related to solar energy,” emphasized Dr. Sriram.
Read Transcript of Panel Discussion »