The University of New South Wales has recently launched the world’s first online solar cell simulator. The newly designed virtual simulator enables UNSW engineering students to develop a solar wafer from scratch and compete for maximum efficiencies. With this move, the University of New South Wales has reaffirmed its global leadership position in solar cell technology.
Solar cell simulator to teach engineering students
By using cloud based technologies, this online solar cell simulator enables interactive teaching which has been seen to be more effective for student learning.
This simulator was developed by PV Lighthouse in cooperation with UNSW and assisted by the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP). The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) also played a part in its development.
With the newly designed solar cell simulator, students can also experiment with different parameters in trying to maximize the efficiency of solar cells. Admittedly, this process is one of the most expensive steps in the actual production of solar cells.
The simulator also features a leader board which pits users against each other encouraging competition. Participants race for efficiency across 12 production processes, with lecturers competing against their students and in some cases, global photovoltaics’ executives.
Over 500,000 students participated in solar cell simulator pilot program
During the pilot program held at UNSW in 2014, there were over 500,000 students who tested the solar cell simulator. It is expected that this number will increase twice this coming semester.
There will be courses that will use this simulator as their platform at the UNSW, as well as Arizona State University in the United States. This is highly possible because there is no charge for using the platform.
Dr. Richard Corkish, senior lecturer at UNSW and also the ACAP Chief Operating Officer said anyone who has an interest in solar cell technology could log on and experiment with the software.
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Daniel Chen, a fourth-year PV/Commerce student at UNSW was able to beat his classmates and managed to win first place in the solar cell simulator as a part of his assignment last year.
Students learning more about solar cell technology and efficiency
“There were a few sleepless nights, with everyone competing in the last few days before it was due,” Chen said. He ran more over 300 simulations before he got the top score, and commented that the platform has improved his knowledge on the subject since he was able to put theory into actual practice.
“Most of us have never experienced a production line before and I doubt we ever will, a real one, so this is a good insight into how a production line works,” remarked Chen.
“What we learn in our lecture we can actually see in performance – it replicates what we do in real life,” he added.
The project was the brain child of UNSW senior lecturer, Dr. Alison Lennon who is in charge of the Photovoltaic Technology and Manufacturing course. “It was great to see how quickly students could put their learning into practice and how enthusiastic they were about being part of the development process for PV Factory,” Lennon said.
“Even after the course finished, many continued to use PV Factory to improve on their manufacturing process, competing with others from industry and university in the pursuit of ever increasing solar cell efficiencies,” he added.