UNSW mourns loss of solar engineering pioneer and inventor

UNSWUniversity of New South Wales commits to 100% renewable energy

UNSW is mourning the loss of solar engineering pioneer Professor Stuart Wenham, who died just before Christmas.

Director of UNSW Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence, Professor Wenham was renowned worldwide as inventor of solar cell technologies.

Colleagues say his influence on the global transition to renewable energy has therefore been considerable.

According to UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman, he had ‘an incredible career’ spanning 25 years.

“He invented or co-invented suites of solar cell technologies that have been licensed to solar cell makers around the world”, Professor Hoffman says.

Subsequently, these have had a major impact on renewable energy generation.

Professor Wenham also helped reduce the cost of solar power as a bulk electricity supply.

Award-winning Professor changes the solar game

Professor Wenham invented Advanced Hydrogenation hydrogen passivation technology.

UNSW is mourning the loss of renowned solar engineering researcher and engineer Professor Stuart Wenham.

UNSW is mourning the loss of renowned solar engineering researcher and engineer Professor Stuart Wenham. Image: UNSW

This subsequently boosts solar cell efficiency a hundredfold. It uses lasers to control hydrogen atoms within a silicon wafer.

This invention won the 2013 A. F. Harvey Engineering Prize. It was dubbed a ‘breakthrough for silicon photovoltaics’ by the UK Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Some of the world’s largest silicon producers have signed UNSW agreements to use this technology.

Eight classes of solar cell technology have been licensed to global makers like Suntech Power, BP Solar and Samsung.

Professor Wenham also organised solar ‘roadshows’ attracting billions of investment dollars for his projects.

Solar engineering pioneer made solar accessible

In the early 1990s, Wenham helped develop thin-film cells CSG (crystalline silicon on glass).

As chief technology officer for Suntech Power, he cut the cost of silicon wafers using large-scale production.

The cost of producing panels subsequently dropped by a factor of 10. And Suntech became the world’s largest solar cells manufacturer.

So, at one point, Wenham managed a team of 350 scientists and engineers engaged in research projects.

According to Suntech Power chief Shi Zhengrong, he was a ground-breaking solar power leader.

Professor Wenham also helped commercialise high-efficiency solar cell technologies in China. This boosted the ‘rapid progress of solar industry in the last 15 years’, Shi says.

“Stuart will be remembered as a great global solar leader who made solar affordable and accessible to everyone”, he adds.

Professor Wenham passed away on 23 December, aged 60, surrounded by family and close friends.