Advancing solar technologies for a more sustainable future

Advancing solar technologies for a more sustainable future
Advancing solar technologies for a more sustainable future

Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Dr Hieu Nguyen was recently awarded the Vietnam Golden Globe award for his contributions to the development of advanced characterisation techniques for solar energy devices.

Nguyen was one of ten recipients to receive the Early Career Scientists award which is given to Vietnamese citizens for outstanding achievements in science and technology from across the world.

 “I hope that the award and similar ones will inspire students and young engineers and scientists at home and abroad to further contribute to the scientific and technological development of Vietnam and the world”, he said.

Born in Vietnam, Nguyen completed his bachelor degree in electrical engineering at Portland State University, Oregon, before being awarded a scholarship to undertake a PhD in engineering (photovoltaics) at ANU.

“I love physical science and am curious about how things work in nature, this took me to engineering”, said Nguyen.

“Then, my bachelor’s study was in electrical engineering, grounded in semiconductors. Ten years ago, solar photovoltaics was a hot topic, a path to tackle our climate change. The bulk part of solar cells is semiconductors. That’s why I decided to follow this area, to both utilise my background and do something meaningful to the world.”

Making the world a better place through technology innovation has led Nguyen to a research and development career in photovoltaic electric systems; a space that is becoming increasingly important if we are to realise net zero emissions.

Recently he, along with his team and collaborators, were awarded a million dollars from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency with $370k co-funding from ANU to develop an advanced optical characterisation cluster for solar research activities. The cluster consists of a hyperspectral imaging tool and a time-resolved photoluminescence (TRPL) system, able to detect light up to 1600 nm.

It is hoped that the technology will allow access to many structural, morphological, and optical properties of solar cells, giving engineers and scientists a powerful toolset to advance photovoltaic technologies further.

Inspiring future scientists

Along with his research, Nguyen is also inspiring current and future generations of scientists in the field. He has been awarded a number of teaching awards including the CECS’s Dean Award for Excellence in Supervision in 2018, was among the top four supervisors nominated for the Vice Chancellor’s Award in the same category in 2019, received the ANU-wide recognition Supervisor of the Month 2020, and received the CECS Dean’s Award for Remote Teaching in 2020 in both individual and course categories.

Remote teaching has of course been an inescapable part of a lecturer’s life for the past couple of years; made all the more challenging when the majority of your students live in a different time zone!

Nguyen has supervised nineteen honours and post-graduate students and is always looking for talented people to join his team. “Renewable energy research is very interdisciplinary so people from all science/engineering backgrounds (electrical, chemical, mechanical, material, chemistry, or related disciplines) are welcome”, he says.

Renewable energy is undeniably a growth area in terms of global relevance and offers strong career pathways for graduates.  

Nguyen’s advice for young people seeking a career in engineering and technology is to “be motivated, listen and learn from experienced people”.

“I always set up some big goals first, and slowly try small steps at a time to move toward these goals. If success does not come right away, don’t be discouraged, don’t give up.”

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