An Australian engineer has been awarded £300,000 by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for his work on increasing the efficiency of solar PV whilst lowering costs.

Professor Stuart Wenham from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was awarded the prestigious A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize after he created a mechanism for controlling hydrogen atoms.

The mechanism allows the team to correct deficiencies in silicon – the most expensive component of a solar cell. By correcting deficiencies, lower quality silicon is able to outperform solar cells that have been made from higher quality materials.

Commenting on the award, Professor Wenham said: “It is a great honour to receive the A F Harvey Engineering Prize and the international recognition that it brings to our breakthrough technology.

“Our research team at UNSW, which holds the world record in silicon solar cell efficiency, has discovered how to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms in silicon and we will be working with the world’s biggest manufacturers to commercialise this low-cost technology. This generous prize will go a long way to helping us take this research to the next stage.”

IET president, Barry Brooks, added: “Professor Wenham has played a pivotal role in the wide scale development of silicon solar cell technology. His pioneering research and internationally recognised leadership in the field have enabled commercial exploitation of the technology for the benefit of the global community seeking renewable energy solutions at affordable prices. He is a truly deserving recipient of the IET A F Harvey Engineering Prize and an inspiration to all engineers.”

To commemorate the award, Professor Wenham will be delivering a special lecture on future trends in photovoltaic technology and applications in London on 21 May 2014.