UNSW professor Martin Green bests Elon Musk to win $820k Global Energy Prize
A Sydney professor has become the first Australian to win a prestigious science award worth more than $820,000.
Martin Green, from the University of New South Wales, was one of two people to share this year's Global Energy Prize, which honours outstanding achievements in research and technology addressing energy challenges.
Professor Green won the award for his work in the field of photovoltaics.
The shortlist for the award included Tesla's Elon Musk and battery technology scientist Khalil Amine.
The award is presented each year by the President of the Russian Federation. Professor Green will be presented with his prize in October this year by President Vladimir Putin, or possibly his nominee.
Professor Green is often referred to as the "Father of Photovoltaics". He was honoured for having "revolutionised the efficiency and costs of solar photovoltaics, making this now the lowest cost option for bulk electricity supply".
He shares the prize and 39 million-Ruble ($823,095) prize money this year with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, an expert in thermal power engineering. They were selected from 44 contenders from 14 countries by a committee of leading scientists.
The Global Energy Prize
The Global Energy Prize has a reputation score of 0.48 on the IREG List of International Academic Awards, with a Nobel Prize scoring 1.0.
Professor Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. He is a world-leading specialist in both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells, and the research group he founded in UNSW Engineering is the largest and best-known university-based photovoltaic research group in the world.
The enormous reductions in costs in photovoltaic solar systems in recent years is directly related to his scientific efforts, largely through the work of his students in establishing manufacturing centres in Asia.
His record-breaking achievements stretch across decades. In 1989, his team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20 per cent. And in 2014, he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an energy conversion efficiency of 40 per cent.
Among his many breakthroughs, he invented the PERC solar cell, which accounted for more than 24 per cent of the world's silicon cell manufacturing capacity at the end of 2017. Sales of systems containing this solar cell exceeded $US10 billion in 2017 and are predicted to exceed $US1 trillion by 2040.
UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said Professor Green had "delivered truly transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades".
"Martin is a highly deserving recipient of this global prize and we warmly congratulate him," he said.
"His fundamental and applied research has transformed the global energy sector and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits, both in Australia and worldwide."
UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman said: "The global impact of the work of Martin and his research team has been profound. They have created the highest efficiency solar cells using techniques that have made them accessible to the world through commercialisation. And all of this has been achieved in Australia.
"We are proud of Martin's inspirational leadership and pioneering research which is helping address the challenge of climate change."
Professor Green said receiving the award was "a great honour".
"The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news," he said.
"We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity."