The need for exponential growth in solar-energy production, as required by Europe’s 2020 climate targets and general energy policies, creates formidable technological challenges. A new European research program aims to address these requirements by improving the efficiency of solar cells, devising innovative harvesting techniques, reducing power-conversion losses, and enhancing energy-management strategies.
The ENIAC Joint Undertaking (JU) is a public-private partnership on nanoelectronics bringing together the ENIAC member States, the European Union, and AENEAS (an association representing European R&D actors in this field). It coordinates research activities through competitive calls for proposals to enhance the further integration and miniaturization of devices, and increase their functionalities. It shall deliver new materials, equipment and processes, new architectures, innovative manufacturing processes, disruptive design methodologies, new packaging and 'systemising' methods. It will drive and be driven by innovative high-tech applications in communication and computing, transport, health care and wellness, energy and environmental management, security and safety, and entertainment.
ENIAC JU was set up in February 2008 and will allocate grants throughout 2013. The projects selected for funding shall be executed till 31 December 2017. The total value of the R&D activities generated is estimated at 3 billion €.
In the first stage, European researchers will focus on the design and development of innovative solar cells, exploring novel architectures, approaches and materials. One of the program’s objectives is to demonstrate commercially viable applications of printable dye-sensitized solar cells that represent a promising low-cost alternative to silicon solutions. In a simultaneously running task, the project partners will seek ways to optimize the use of energy generated by the photovoltaic systems, concentrating on power-management electronics for silicon-cell panels and micro-electro-mechanical systems for concentrated photovoltaic cells. The partners intend to explore techniques that track the maximum power point to boost output from solar arrays and improve power-conversion efficiency at the module and segment levels.
ERG is also supposed to generate behavioral models for individual components of the smart grid that enable the development of optimal energy-dispatching and battery-charging algorithms based on inputs from wireless sensor nodes distributed across the network. Devising innovative solutions that optimize local smart grids in terms of power management and co-generation, power consumption and overall efficiency, with real-time energy metering and billing control is also in the project plan.
»The ERG initiative will contribute to the establishment of a solid electronics design base for Europe and create a set of technology standards for the solar energy sector«, said ERG project coordinator Dr. Francesco Gennaro, Staff Engineer at STMicroelectronics. »ERG’s goal is to achieve significant efficiency improvements along the whole supply chain from PV panels to grid connection and make them available to all partners.«
The ‘Energy for a Green Society’ project is organized into a number of work packages, spanning a total duration of 36 months. The total cost of the project is €25.7 million, partially funded through a combination of European and national grants, under the rule of ENIAC JU 2010. The participating countries are Italy, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Slovak Republic and United Kingdom.
The 27 Project Partners are:
Applied Materials Italia
Italian University NanoElectronics Consortium (IUNET)
NXP Semiconductors, the Netherlands
ON Semiconductor Belgium
RWTH Aachen University
STMicroelectronics, Italy – project coordinator