Professor Martin Green

Professor Martin Green landscape

Martin Green was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1948 and educated at the University of Queensland and McMaster University, Canada. His PhD work at McMaster included demonstrating that the traditional silicon solar cell “p-n junctions” could be advantageously replaced by tunnelling metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) structures. He joined the University of New South Wales (now UNSW Sydney) in 1974 after completing his PhD, where he set up the Solar Photovoltaic Group.

This group began establishing its international reputation in the late 1970s by setting world-record cell voltages using “tunnel oxide passivated contacts”, now commonly known as TOPCon. UNSW demonstrated a version where the metal is replaced by a thin layer of deposited polycrystalline silicon in 1981, with this now the basis of commercial versions of this technology. In 1983, using the tunnelling approach, his team made the first 18% efficient silicon cell, setting its first world-record for energy conversion efficiency. This was the first of 18 separate records from his team over the next 30-years, increasing silicon cell efficiency by over 50% in relative terms during the process.

Also in 1983, Green conceived a new cell structure, the PERC cell (“Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell”), that has completely dominated commercial manufacturing over recent years, accounting for nearly 90% of global solar cell production since 2020. A team of his students, led by his former PhD student, Andrew Blakers, made the first efficient PERC cell in 1988, with the first world-record with this approach set in 1989 by another of his PhD students, Aihua Wang. With her husband, Jianhua Zhao, now leading PERC cell development, this record was increased throughout the 1990s to 25% efficiency. It is estimated that, since PERC began seriously challenging for commercial market share in 2016, PERC has reduced solar prices by almost 50% compared to what they would have been without its introduction.

Green’s former students have made another, even more substantial, contribution to the greater than 90% reduction in solar costs in the last decade or so, now making solar the prime weapon in the battle to control climate change. They triggered a major manufacturing transition within the solar cell industry via a series of Australian joint ventures in low-cost Asian regions, previously lacking the required technology and infrastructure, with rapid growth financed by US exchange listings between 2005 and 2010.

Professor Green has also made significant impact in the broader engineering education area. His text “Solar cells: Operating principles, technology and system applications” (Prentice Hall, 1982) is the field’s most highly cited – reprinted many times, translated into Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Thai, Italian and Spanish. He helped another former student, the late Stuart Wenham, to introduce the world’s first photovoltaic undergraduate engineering degree programme in 2000, presently with over 500 students enrolled.

Green is also one of the world’s most highly cited researchers, selected as a Clarivate “Highly Cited Researcher” (top 0.1% in field) each and every year since the scheme’s instigation in 2014 and named “one of the most influential minds in engineering”. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Royal Society, London.

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The 2023 QEPrize is awarded to Professor Martin Green, Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Aihua Wang & Dr Jianhua Zhao

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has been awarded for the invention and development of Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar photovoltaic technology.