Australians win leading global engineering prize

Australians win leading global engineering prize


Four Australian solar tech pioneers have been awarded the world’s most prestigious engineering prize, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, for their work developing the highly efficient solar cells that have become central to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Professor Martin Green, at home in Sydney, has again been recognised for his world-leading work in solar cells.Credit:Australian Financial Review

The University of NSW’s Professor Martin Green, ANU’s Professor Andrew Blakers, along with solar entrepreneurs Dr Aihua Wang and Dr Jianhua Zhao, have been recognised for creating the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell, or PERC, which has underpinned the recent exponential growth in high performance, low-cost solar electricity.

The chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, Lord Browne of Madingley, said the prize celebrates engineers who “solve the impossible and transform our world for the better”.

“PERC solar technology is one of those innovations.

“I believe that everything we do has to be oriented around the global energy transition, so we can achieve net zero for the planet and the people that live on it.

“This year’s innovation has been and will continue to be integral to this journey. We are in the process of global energy transition, with PERC and solar power in the front seat, and I wholeheartedly congratulate Professors Green and Blakers, and Drs Wang and Zhao for their contribution to humanity.”

Professor Green said he was honoured to share the award and believed more must be done to break reliance on fossil fuels and maintain “the trajectory of human civilisation”.

One of the award’s judges, Professor Viola Vogel, said that while Albert Einstein was the first to outline the theory of the photoelectric effect, the prize winners had made major contributions to developing the basic physical principles into the technology that every person and every household can use today.

Also on the panel was Australia’s former Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, who said the winners of the £500,000 ($865,000) prize had worked for decades developing a “truly transformative technology”.

“Tackling climate change is not easy and we’re not going to overcome it just with behavioural change.

“We must use technology to reduce our emissions, which is why PERC technology and solar energy are so important.”

Last year Professor Green won the Millennium Technology Prize, presented by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, which is conferred every two years, leading to speculation he may soon be considered for a Nobel Prize.

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