05 July 2024 | Story Martinette Brits | Photo Barend Nagel
Dr Lucas Erasmus and Prof Hendrik Swart
Dr Lucas Erasmus and Prof Hendrik Swart, two of the researchers from the Department of Physics attended the second edition of The International Conference on Laser, Plasma and Radiation – Science and Technology (ICLPR-ST).

Dr Lucas Erasmus, a Junior Researcher in the Department of Physics, has recently won the Best Presentation Award at the second edition of The International Conference on Laser, Plasma and Radiation – Science and Technology (ICLPR-ST). He was recognised for his presentation titled 'Synthesis and Modelling of Sm2+ Doped Phosphors in Luminescent Solar Concentrator Devices’.

The conference took place from 16 to 21 June in the Danube Delta, Romania.

According to Dr Erasmus, the conference aimed to bring together experts, researchers, and students in the fields of lasers, plasmas, and radiation physics. The conference was attended by three researchers from the University of the Free State (UFS): Prof Hendrik Swart, Prof Koos Terblans and Dr Erasmus.

Advancing solar cell efficiency

The Department of Physics is utilising its expertise in material science, physics and chemistry to design and develop the next generation of luminescent materials for specific, targeted applications.

"In this presentation, I discussed the development of a material identified and optimised for solar harvesting applications. Current solar cell technologies have limited conversion efficiencies due to multiple factors, one of which is the spectral mismatch between the light we receive from the sun and the light that can be most efficiently converted to electricity by solar panels. The luminescent material, in the form of a thin layer, can act as a ‘middleman’ to help convert solar radiation to the required wavelengths for efficient conversion by the solar cells,” explains Dr Erasmus.

However, this 'middleman' role can potentially introduce additional losses. Therefore, the project focused on exploring methods to mitigate these losses through rigorous optimisation and modelling of the luminescent layer.

Dr Erasmus points out that a luminescent solar concentrator is a new approach to adjust the geometry of the luminescent layer to enhance the collection of solar radiation, thereby minimising the surface area needed for solar cells. "This approach has the potential to lower the cost of solar modules while maintaining high energy output from the device."

According to Dr Erasmus, this research is particularly significant today, in the face of rising energy prices, energy scarcity, and the pursuit of a carbon-free society. “There are strong incentives to develop new and renewable energy sources. Solar panels play an essential role in renewable energy since they provide a route to directly convert solar radiation into electricity.”

Award encourages high-quality research

Dr Erasmus says that this award is a great honour for him. “It is the first time I have received an award of this nature outside of South Africa. Therefore, it is almost the equivalent of a stamp of approval from the international scientific community on the work we are conducting at the Department of Physics. This recognition also fosters networking, credibility, confidence, and career advancement. It also encourages me to continue pursuing high-quality research.”

He experienced this conference as a highly engaging and enriching event. “The combination of leading experts, interdisciplinary discussions, and a picturesque setting in the Danube Delta made it a valuable experience for attendees, fostering both scientific exchange and professional networking opportunities.”


Dr Lucas Erasmus's laser pulses

Dr Lucas Erasmus demonstrates laser pulses being fired towards a target material. This is one of the techniques being used in the processing of luminescent materials into thin films.

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