In order to help catapult Irish innovation to the world stage, and effect change globally, Science Foundation Ireland have launched the Future Innovator Prize.

With €4m available across two challenges – AI for Societal Good and Zero Emissions – this competition offers Irish science the money to match its ambition. Challenge-based funding is a solution-focused approach to research funding that uses prizes, strict timelines, teamwork and competition to direct research activities at ambitious societal problems

Science To The Rescue is an hour long documentary, presented by Trevor Vaugh (Big Life Fix), that got up close and personal with some of the challenge teams trying to win the prize funds. As the clock ticks down, we learn about the motivation behind their work and meet some of those who will benefit from their breakthroughs.

SolarCool: Enhancing solar panel performance with passive cooling technology.

Challenge: Developments in the solar power industry over the past 50 years have led to improvements in both efficiency and economic viability of solar power installations; for example, the cost has dropped from an average of 76.67 USD/Watt in 1977 to 0.37 USD/Watt in 2017. Large-scale solar PV is now becoming competitive with other renewable technologies such as offshore wind.

This project aims to address the major issues associated with the operation of solar cells in high ambient temperature arid environments for prolonged periods of time. These areas have particularly high resources of solar energy up to 2500 kWhr/m2/ year, which over twice that of Northern Europe or Ireland. Ambient temperature in these climates can reach above 50oC during the day and -20oC at night, and the solar Panels themselves can easily reach temperatures over 100oC.

We are working together with Concern Worldwide to ensure that this technology can have societal impact in developing economies in Africa, where over 64% of the continent can be classified as arid or semi-arid.

Solution: In this project we will take a novel approach of addressing overheating issues in solar photovoltaics at both the solar cell and solar panel level. Silicon based solar cells are currently designed to operate optimally at 25oC typical in European climates, and in arid desert environments efficiency can be up to 30% lower than rated values. What's more, average module operational lifetime is significantly reduced.

This project will develop technology to reduce operating temperature of solar panels in this environment and thus further lower cost by increasing efficiency and operational lifetime to enable large-scale uptake of the technology.