Solar Energy Materials and Systems

The research group of Prof. Kati Miettunen studies solar energy materials and systems. The focus of the research is improving stability of emerging solar technologies as well as designing sustainable materials, e.g. bio-based alternatives. There is also a new opening in developing solar energy systems namely for Nordic conditions.

Current Projects

KESPV | Advancing the durability and circularity of new, more efficient solar technologies

KESPV focuses on extending the lifespan of new high-efficiency solar cell technologies and adapting them to the principles of the circular economy. Perovskite solar cells produce high efficiency ratios as a separate cell type, but they can also be combined with traditional silicon solar cells to form Tandem solar cells, which can further increase power output. 

The key problem with perovskite cells is their lifespan, which should be increased 1) in order for the technology to be competitive in the commercial market and 2) for the principles of sustainable development to be implemented as well as possible (in the circular economy, the so-called long loop). 

Northern conditions bring their own challenges to solar cells, such as large temperature fluctuations and the sun is low on the horizon affecting the spectrum of light, and the KESPV project covers these aspects supporting the implementation of the energy transition in Finland. KESPV focuses specifically on developing modelling research to solve these lifespan and sustainability issues in order to understand the changes taking place in cells and guide experimental research as efficiently as possible. 

The KESPV project was ideated together with Prof. Kati Miettunen and M.Sc. (tech) Aleksi Kamppinen. In addition, Julianna Virjonen will be working in the KESPV project.

Funded by Lieto Savings Bank Foundation (2024)

CIMANET | Circular Materials Bioeconomy Network Doctoral Education Pilot

CIMANET is an interdisciplinary doctoral education network to promote sustainable growth. It strengthens the knowledge base required to enhance the bio-based industry with novel solutions unveiling the full potential of biomass.

Partners: Aalto University, University of Helsinki, Åbo Akademi University, Lappeenranta University of Technology, University of Oulu, Tampere University, Hanken School of Economics, University of Jyväskylä, and University of Turku.

Funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture (2024-2027).

HEMS | Home Energy Management Systems

Solar panels and batteries in individual households have become more common due to lower prices and the green transition, and this development has made HEMS operational strategies an important research topic. The HEMS strategy refers to the coordination of a household's energy production, consumption and storage, taking into account the limitations of the energy system and the household (e.g. home heating). 

Various HEMS strategies have been studied extensively globally, but the conditions in Finland create special challenges due to, for example, large variations in solar energy production and high heating demand. Those Nordic challenges are the focus of this new project.

The HEMS project is a collaboration with Prof. Pekka Peljo (Battery Materials & Technologies research group)

Funded by City of Salo and University of Turku (2024–2026).

RealSolar | Resilient and accessible power system with large shares of solar energy

The RealSolar project investigates how to manage the increase of photovoltaics (PV) in our energy system while ensuring resilient and affordable energy supply, and that all levels of society have access to the benefits from PV and can thereby contribute to the just green transition.

Partners: Tommi Ekholm & Anders Lindfors (FMI); Sanna Syri (Aalto University); Saku Mäkinen (University of Turku); Samuli Ranta & Ritva Salminiitty (Turku University of Applied Sciences). 

Funded by the Research Council of Finland (2023–2029).

SUSMAT | Sustainable Materials & Manufacturing

The SUSMAT university profiling measure enhances the design of sustainable materials and manufacturing with data-driven approach to solve global energy, health, and well-being, and industrial production challenges.

Mr. Teemu Hynnä serves as a research coordinator for SUSMAT and Dr. Mahboubeh Hadadian as a post doctoral researcher.

SUSMAT is a collaboration between the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Department of Chemistry, Department of Life Sciences, and Department of Dentistry in University of Turku

ECOSOL | Ecodesign of solar technologies for urban environment

The ECOSOL project investigates the retrieval of critical materials from photovoltaic systems. The researchers aim to understand how materials selection affects the recycling of solar cells and develop solar-panel structures that allow commercially viable reuse or recycling. The overall goal of the multidisciplinary consortium is to design sustainable solar-energy technology.

Partners: Prof. Pekka Heikkinen and Prof. Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio (both Aalto University). 

Funded by Academy of Finland (2022-2025).

Beyond e-Textiles | Nordic network on smart light-conversion textiles beyond electric circuits

Today’s e-textiles require electric circuits and batteries that are brittle, bulky, often prevent maintenance of the textile and hinder customer acceptance. These rigid conductive elements can be made redundant due to the possibilities enabled by the design of novel yarns. In our vision, different photoresponsive molecules and nanoparticles embedded in these new yarns can directly convert photons into heat, actuation, or triggering a colour change as well as act as catalysers for photocleanable fabrics. Hence, the aim of this project is to develop smart textiles that bypass the need for electric circuits and directly transform solar – or other ambient - illumination into useful action.  Moreover, we aim to enhance Nordic integrity in exchanging the best practices of teaching design thinking, as well as facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists, engineers, designers and artists. 

Partners: Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori (Aalto University, Finland), Dr. Anne Louise Bang (VIA University College, Denmark), Prof. Delia Dumitrescu (University of Borås, Sweden), Prof. Thomas Pausz (Iceland University of The Arts).

Funded by NordForsk multidisciplinary funding call (2021-2025).

BioEST | Bio-based materials for Emerging Solar Technologies

BioEST project focuses on utilizing bio-based material for emerging solar technologies to replace conventional rare materials and simultaneously increase the device lifetime. In this project, we also combine experimental studies with modelling to understand the degradation mechanisms of emerging solar cells and to predict the device lifetime to accelerate the aging studies.

Funded by Academy of Finland (2018-2024).

Past Projects

Academic host for PoDoCo project on solar materials

This project is funded by the post docs in companies foundation (2021-2023) and University of Turku is the academic host/support for this project.

Casual Bee | Finnish Research Infrastructure for Characterization and Aging of Surfaces and Materials for the Local Businesses and Environmental Economy

The purpose of the Casual Bee research infrastructure is to serve as a platform for collaboration between local industries as well as to strengthen research excellence in the field of materials characterization and aging. The strong research focus on materials science at University of Turku, coupled with the recent expansion of the materials engineering education creates a possibility to build up larger infrastructure to support both the scientific and the business community.

The departments from University of Turku participating in this project are Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Chemistry.

Funded by Academy of Finland (2020-2021).

Matching solar energy production and electricity consumption with bifacial solar cells in Nordic latitudes

The idea in this project is to investigate bifacial solar panel systems in Nordic conditions where they can match better the energy production in private households with own solar energy production. One major challenge is integration of vertically mounted bifacial solar cell in build environment, which is why this is a joint project between solar energy engineers and architects.

This  is a joint project with Prof. Pekka Heikkinen (Aalto University, Finland). 

Funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (2020-2023).

SUBSTAINABLE | Multifunctional, high performance cellulose-based substrates for photovoltaics and optoelectronics

SUBSTAINABLE project is related to bilateral Finnish-Swedish Tandem Forest Values programme (2020-2022). The other partners in the project are Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori (Aalto University, Finland) and Dr. Tiffany Abitbol (RISE, Sweden).

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