One of the big questions in the field of sustainable or green energy is how to make solar energy more efficient. The answer is simple: you should make the cells gathering the sun’s energy more efficient. And where else would we find the answer than in Espoo.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Otaniemi was known for the world record in the lowest temperature created by man. Today it is known for leading the research behind the efficiency record of black silicon solar cells.
A key person in this work is Dr. Hele Savin. Here she tells more about herself and her work.
Who are you?
I’m Hele Savin, Assistant Professor and head of the Electron Physics Research Group at the Aalto University’s Department of Micro- and Nanosciences. My group studies silicon-based solar cells, among other things.
When did you discover that you wanted to work in science?
I liked maths and physics in school—engineering disciplines were my thing. My dad is a Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) graduate and works as a researcher. As a kid, I loved visiting him at work and was fascinated by their technical equipment. In 1996, I started at TKK majoring in microelectronics.
Why did you decide to focus on solar energy?
In recent years microelectronics conferences have attracted more and more solar energy researchers, as the materials and technology used by both fields of science are converging. I noticed that solar energy was associated with intriguing problems that are very similar to what I had earlier managed to solve in microelectronics.
How did you establish a network in the science community?
I’ve worked abroad on two occasions. This was very motivating and helped in creating international networks. I worked at Berkeley during my postgraduate studies and at the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy after I received my PhD. Foreign institutions possess very advanced solar energy research instruments because they have been exploring the subject for a long time. I’ve done my best to draw knowledge and competence from abroad and introduce it here at Aalto as well. I’ve also brought some international researchers into my own group.
What's so fascinating about solar energy?
It’s already certain that solar power will be a big issue. It has enormous energy generation potential. I am, however, a scientist at root—solving the technical challenges associated with solar power intrigues me most of all.
What do you want to achieve as a researcher?
My dream is that technology I have developed will be utilised by the photovoltaic industry globally. The grants and funding from ERC and EU over the last few years have enabled me and my group to achieve the black silicon solar cell world record in efficiency. But we’re not finished; our work will continue in the BLACK project. We will develop the technology further in cooperation with industry—so we’re getting closer to reaching my dream.