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Solar Energy: beginning of the construction of the Photovoltaic Institute

Since January 2016, the construction of the future building of the Paris-Region Photovoltaic Institute has begun. This Institute, whose ambition is to position France as a key player in solar energy worldwide, is the result of a strategic collaboration between École Polytechnique, CNRS, and business partners from the Saclay plateau.

The construction has officially begun on January 11th on the Paris-Saclay campus. The work on the future building of the Paris-Region Photovoltaic Institute (IPVF) will last 19 months and the opening is planned for the second half of 2017. The IPVF aims to become a leading global research, innovation and academic center in the field of solar energy.

This Institute, which is the result of excellent scientific and strategic collaboration on the Saclay plateau, is a partnership between businesses and academic institutions created at the initiative of EDF and Total, CNRS and École Polytechnique, in association with Air Liquide, Horiba Jobin Yvon and Riber. The IPVF federates the research activities of the seven founding members in the field of photovoltaic solar energy.
Bruno Carlotti, Managing Director of the Institute, says that the beginning of the construction represents "a new step for the future building that is to become a great research tool: it will host 4,000 m2 of laboratories with advanced equipment and about 150 researchers."
Pere Roca i Cabarrocas, the Director of the Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and thin Films (LPICM - École Polytechnique/CNRS) and member of the Scientific Council of IPVF, sees it as "an opportunity to showcase this international center of excellence in photovoltaics, bringing together the research community in this field, today dispersed in many sites and several laboratories".

Above all, the beginning of the construction represents the culmination of the "tremendous background work which started a while ago," according to Pere Roca, who is also directing the Paris-Region Photovoltaic Federation (FedPV). Indeed, even though the building itself is not constructed yet, research has already begun. A year ago, in January 2015, ten projects were thus launched as part of the IPVF. École Polytechnique and the LPICM participate in four of them.
The first project, on the crystalline silicon, which is the more mature now in the photovoltaic industry, is seeking to develop innovative solutions to lower the cost of crystalline solar cells. "Within the LPICM, we developed deposition processes of thin films that reduce 100 times the amount of silicon used in solar panels, says Pere Roca. New techniques are available to produce different forms of silicon with low temperature plasmas, including, most recently, the epitaxial crystalline silicon that arouses a lot of interest both in the scientific and industrial field".
The LPICM is also working on three other research projects. "We are studying the cells called perovskites based on organic-inorganic hybrid materials, an emerging technologywhose progress in terms of performance over the past three years is dazzling," says the Director of the LPICM. The other two projects are on modeling and characterization of materials.
Once open in 2017, the IPVF will increase the visibility of French research on solar energy, "making it easier to obtain additional financial resources," says Pere Roca.

According to Bruno Carlotti, Managing Director of the IPVF, this center will "help strengthen partnerships with companies of the Saclay plateau as well as international research institutions and attract researchers from around the world."
Pere Roca adds: "With this new building, we will continue to innovate and develop devices and methods to increase yields, and thus make solar energy more and more competitive on a global scale." The aim ultimately is to expand the application fields of photovoltaics and make it accessible to everyone.