Berkley Labs will lead DOE effort to find breakthrough materials for solar panels

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sunshot initiative is providing $30 million to five of its research labs to hasten the development and deployment of innovative, high-performance materials for photovoltaic modules.

The goal of the project is to create materials that will both lower solar electricity prices and increasing the time panels can remain in the field.

Under the direction of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) Anubhav Jain, whose research focuses on finding new materials using high-throughput computations, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia Labs) and the SLAC National Laboratory (SLAC) will form the Durable Module Materials National Lab Consortium, or DuraMat.

Jain said DuraMat is the latest Energy Materials Network (EMN) consortium, which will leverage ‘materials-genome’ approaches improve solar’s reliable, making it more cost-competitive over the long term.

The research involves integrating information from materials and solar-module datasets measured at multiple length and time scales, including data from quantum simulations and real-world solar module performance.

Once the data is collected, the consortium will employ statistical analysis and machine-learning techniques to examine why modules fail. Never before has the solar industry seen this kind of cooperation between academia, industry, and the national labs as well as fundamental science, real-world measurements, and informatics.

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

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). The goals of the consortia are to provide entrepreneurs and manufacturers an edge in the global renewable energy market.

The consortia is also focused on helping companies bring the products they develop to market more quickly, thus revitalizing devastated manufacturing industries across the country and provide well-paying jobs to those affected by the phase-out of fossil fuels and other fading manufacturing industries.