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ODU's Marsillac Continues to Attract DOE Funding for Solar Energy Research, with $1.1-million grant

The solar energy research of Sylvain Marsillac, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, has received significant recognition recently from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Marsillac was awarded a $300,000 grant from DOE through its Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-Pace) to research enhanced back contacts for thin-film solar cells. In addition, he is the principal investigator on a $1.1 million, multi-university grant supporting research into ultra-thin solar cells.

To investigate the ultra-thin cells, Marsillac is working with three ODU electrical and computer engineering researchers at the Applied Research Center in Newport News - Hani Elsayed-Ali, professor and Eminent Scholar; Helmut Baumgart, professor; and Gon Namkoong, assistant professor - as well as researchers from the University of Toledo and University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.

The research team is developing and manufacturing an incredibly thin, 500-nanometer solar cell, made up of six layers of photon-trapping materials that produce a unique nanoscale design. The reduced thickness makes the solar cells cheaper and faster to make, but does not cut down on energy efficiency.

For much of this research, Marsillac is partnering with two longtime photovoltaic (PV) energy colleagues from his time at the University of Toledo. While at Toledo, Marsillac and his colleagues attracted more than $20 million in funding for PV energy research. Marsillac came to ODU in 2011.

Marsillac, who recently received the Batten College's Outstanding Researcher Award and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering's Outstanding Teacher Award, has been invited to present the results of his studies at a prestigious DOE workshop in Colorado in June. Also that month, he and three of his students will give several presentations at the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Austin, Texas.

In recognition of his research achievements, Marsillac has been selected as a Department of Energy expert in PV energy, and will participate in national review panels to develop and assess future research directions and funding.

"We are continuing to work to make these PV cells as efficient and inexpensive as possible. It's an exciting time to be in solar energy research," Marsillac said.