Dublin, Ireland - 5th March 2020: A new academic collaboration between the USA, Ireland and Northern Ireland, representing an investment of €1.9 million, will conduct research into solar cell technology and the development of photovoltaic (PV) devices which have the potential to turn indoor lighting sources into electricity.

Announced through the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme, the tripartite collaboration will be conducted over 24 months between five universities, across the three countries. It will be led by Arizona State University (ASU)’s Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center in partnership with I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at Dublin City University (DCU), and the Irish Photonic Integration SFI Research Centre (IPIC), hosted by the Tyndall National Institute. Also partnering are Ulster University's Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MIT Photovoltaics Research Laboratory.

Photovoltaics is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. This new Centre-to-Centre (C2C) collaboration will focus on the development of advanced PV technology and incorporate state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing processes and PV materials. Converting indoor lighting into electrical power with solar panels will reduce the growing need for extended battery life for devices that don't have access to sunlight.

Speaking of the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme is a unique cross-jurisdiction initiative which demonstrates Ireland’s scientific standing, working closely with top institutions across the world to generate innovation and discovery. It is evidence of the strong open relationship between our countries, and I congratulate Prof Dermot Brabazon and his collaborators on this award, which has the potential to greatly benefit our society and economy.”

The Republic of Ireland (RoI) research lead is Prof Dermot Brabazon (I-Form, DCU) with co-applicants Prof Greg Hughes (I-Form, DCU), Mr Brian Corbett and Dr Emanuele Pelucchi (both IPIC, Tyndall National Institute). The collaboration will also include a student exchange programme.

The I-Form SFI Research Centre at DCU will provide expertise in additive manufacturing (3D printing), including the fabrication and testing of solar cell devices at ASU's Solar Power Laboratory, to demonstrate low cost solar cell manufacturing. The integration of I-Form's quality by design nano-colloid production and additive manufacturing capabilities with the latest material development for the next generation of solar cell production provides an exciting new opportunity. Commenting on the award, Prof Dermot Brabazon said: "We look forward to working with our partners in the US and Northern Ireland on this exciting new partnership, which will facilitate important multi-disciplinary research in this pioneering convergence of technologies.”

Welcoming the collaboration, Davide Mariotti, Professor in Plasma Science and Nanoscale Engineering, Ulster University, said: “We are delighted and eager to start working within this collaboration which is  supported by a research grant from the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme. The research will bring together highly complementary expertise and capabilities from international leaders in their respective fields and disciplines.”

The US-Ireland R&D Partnership aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions. It runs under a ‘single-proposal, single-review’ mechanism facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the Republic of Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Health Research Board (HRB) partner, while in Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners.

Speaking of the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme, launched in July 2006, Rebecca Keiser, Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering for National Science Foundation (NSF), said: “NSF is pleased to be a part of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership. The Center-to-Center collaborations launched under the partnership demonstrate the value of trans-Atlantic cooperation. This exciting new project is an example of how linking investments has the potential to further advance science to tackle global challenges.”   

The Programme focuses on prioritised thematic areas, including sensors, tele-communications, energy and sustainability, health and agriculture.