Mini-scale solar has a BIG Impact

Theresa Haley

A childhood dream of mine has always been to work in a classic “lab coat", so being able to fulfil this dream at UNSW has definitely topped off the whole experience.

Storm showing the new solar cells for Mini Solar
Storm showing the photovoltaic cells

As part of the Vertically Integrated Projects program (VIP), I am a member of a team called Mini Solar, which is developing miniature solar-powered devices for a variety of applications, such as early bushfire communication response. Check out our award-winning video to find out more. Applications to be apart of VIP projects are open for 2022!

Like any project, there are key aspects in the device design that require a large amount of technical work. Considering the devices we are making are so small, we need to make the solar cells in each device as efficient as possible to keep up with the power requirements. My role in the project is to improve the efficiency of the solar cells used in each device by allowing more light to be trapped into the material for conversion into useable power.

For this role, I was fortunate enough to experience firsthand some of the early processes of solar cell fabrication at the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). I have found that one of the best ways to solidify the theory I learn from my courses is through practical tasks, which is what has made the lab experience with the VIP program so unique and exciting.

At ANFF, the cleanroom I work in is completely free of dust and UV light, which protects the samples from any environmental defects that may arise. To ensure this room stays “clean” I wear protective equipment from head to toe so that the particles and dust gathered on my skin don’t contaminate the room or the sample. As a bonus, the outfit makes me feel like I am from one of those movies where you see people in a hazmat suit, saving the world from some sort of zombie apocalypse.

Storm is in his third year of a Bachelor of Engineering in Photovoltaics and Solar Energy.