Franco-American seminar “Powering the World with Photovoltaïcs” at Georgia Tech

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As part of France-Atlanta 2015, the seminar “Powering the World with Photovoltaïcs, status and opportunities” took place at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), on Nov. 3 in Atlanta. This seminar, jointly organized by Georgia Tech, CEA-Liten (a leading French Institution in this field) and the scientific service of the Consulate General of France in Atlanta, focused on recent advances in research and policy regarding photovoltaics on both sides of the Atlantic. This topic is especially relevant in light of the opening of the COP21 in Paris in the coming weeks.

Overview of photovoltaics in France and in the US

Among the speakers were Dr Bertrand Fillon, VP for European Affairs at CEA-Liten (a French research institution focusing on new energy technologies), who presented an overview of past and ongoing European research projects as well as some current technological bottlenecks in the field, and Pr Ajeet Rohatgi, from Georgia Tech, also the founder and CTO of Suniva Inc., whose talk reviewed the exponential growth of photovoltaics in the US during the past six years and the concurrent decrease in the cost of PV (a hundred-fold decrease between 1975 and 2014). He also explored the current governmental incentives boosting this growth (subsidies, tax refunds) and the difficulties faced by the industry with the influx on the market of low-cost devices manufactured in Asia.

French and American experts then highlighted current innovations and challenges regarding next generation photovoltaics. Besides crystalline silicon-based devices, still showing a lot of potential, talks focused on the strengths and limitations of the growing field of organic materials, which could be used to make light, semi-transparent and flexible devices, opening up the way for new applications. The emergent perovskite materials, displaying promising light harvesting performances, were also examined. Biodegradable and eco-friendly organic devices, based on plant materials were also brought up as a possible path forward to cleaner technologies.

(from left to right) Pr Bernard Kippelen (Georgia Tech), Dr Bertrand Fillon (CEA-Liten), Pr Ajeet Rohatgi (Georgia Tech) and Dr Jean-Patrice Rakotoniaina (CEA-Liten).

Discussion and perspectives

A key point developed during the discussion was the strong need for a long-term support of research, innovation, and technological transfer to develop photovoltaics competitiveness.
The implementation of a global carbon market, which would reconcile economic and societal concerns (reduction of greenhouse gases emissions), should also give further momentum to this field. Finally, experts have underlined the complementarity between different renewable energy sources, to be deployed according to local needs and potentials.

French and American speakers then visited research facilities at Georgia Tech and discussed several avenues for future collaborations between France and the US in this expanding field.

Laboratory tour with Professor Bernard Kippelen, director of Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics at Georgia Tech. From left to right: Dr Jean-Patrice Rakotoniaina (CEA-Liten, France), Dr Anne Corval (Scientific Service of the French Consulate in Atlanta), Dr Solenn Berson (CEA-Liten), Pr Bernard Kippelen (Georgia Tech) and Dr Bertrand Fillon (CEA-Liten).