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$30 Million Joint Effort to Improve Solar Module Materials

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) will work with four other DOE national labs in a new effort designed to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative, high-performance materials for photovoltaic modules to lower the cost of electricity generated by solar power while increasing field lifetime.

A total of $1.36 million over the next five years will be managed by Berkeley Lab’s Anubhav Jain, a scientist focusing on new materials discovery using high-throughput computations. The research team will develop DuraMat (Durable Module Materials National Lab Consortium), led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and co-led by Sandia National Laboratories. Along with Berkeley Lab, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is a core partner. DuraMat is a new Energy Materials Network (EMN) consortium.

The Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative will provide DuraMat with an estimated $30 million over five years, subject to appropriations. DuraMat will utilize the expertise and capabilities of the national laboratories to develop innovative new materials for module components.

“With DuraMat, we are going to leverage ‘materials genome’ approaches to making solar power even more reliable and therefore more cost-competitive over the long term,” said Jain, a researcher in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area (ETA). “We are going to focus on data management and analytics. This entails integrating information from materials and solar module datasets measured at multiple length and time scales—all the way from quantum simulations to real-world solar module performance in the field.

“Next, we will use statistical analysis and machine-learning techniques to form a cohesive story as to why modules fail and what we can do to improve their dependability and lifetime. It’s a completely new approach that will bring together academia, industry, and the national labs as well as fundamental science, real-world measurements, and informatics.”

Researcher Kristin Persson of ETA will also be on the leadership committee and help guide the operation of DuraMat.

Energy Materials Network
DuraMat is the fourth consortium established as part of the Energy Materials Network (EMN), which was launched in February by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

DOE also recently announced $10 million to support the launch of the HydroGEN Advanced Water Splitting Materials Consortium (HydroGEN). This consortium will utilize the expertise and capabilities of the national laboratories to accelerate the development of commercially viable pathways for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources.

Crafted to give American entrepreneurs and manufacturers a competitive edge in the global race for clean energy, EMN focuses on tackling one of the major barriers to widespread commercialization of clean energy technologies—the design, testing, and production of advanced materials.

By strengthening and facilitating industry access to unique scientific and technical resources available for developing advanced materials at the DOE national labs, the network will help industry bring these materials to market more quickly.

Other consortia in progress are:

  • The Lightweight Materials Consortium (LightMat) on lightweight materials for various applications
  • Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) on new catalysts for fuel cells
  • Caloric Cooling Consortium (CaloriCool) on refrigerant materials for cooling applications
  • Three more consortia are anticipated to be announced next year.

EERE envisions that dramatically accelerating the development of new photovoltaic (PV) module materials will clear the way for significant reductions in the cost of solar power. It is expected that DuraMat will lead to dependable, high-performance, low-cost PV module materials and architectures by:

  • Developing module technologies that will enable dramatic reductions in the cost of energy from solar power
  • Building a network of active collaborations from within the national laboratories, academia, and industry to design, develop, and deploy advanced module materials
  • Moving highly promising module materials and technologies from early stages of research to successful deployment in the marketplace at an accelerated rate

Revitalizing U.S. Manufacturing
Overall, the EMN consortia will form a network of advanced materials research and development capabilities and resources that will support the Obama Administration’s commitment to revitalizing American manufacturing and maintaining a competitive edge in the clean energy economy. This effort supports the President’s Materials Genome Initiative, which has been engaged in work to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost.
EMN also supports the recommendations of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, a White House-convened working group of leaders from industry, academia, and labor, which highlighted the importance of producing advanced materials for technologies critical to U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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