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Brightening the future of the earth with next-generation solar c...
  • Writer : KU TODAY
  • Hits : 167
  • Date : 2020-02-21

Brightening the future of the earth with next-generation solar cells
– Professor Jun Hong Noh of the department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering


He has the imagination of a child and the ethical sense of a grown-up. He knows how to change the terrain with novel and creative solutions, and how to look at the future prospects of the earth with the moral sense of an upright and empathetic scientist. It was in 2018 and 2019 that he was ranked among the most highly cited researchers in the world for his devotion to energy conversion technology. However, he remains unphased and continues to steadfastly do his work.

One of the Most Influential Researchers

What Professor Jun Hong Noh has accomplished to this point is the result of the foundations he has laid. The dream of his youth was to contribute to the world by doing things that others do not. He has continued step by step along the path to realize the dream, and he has already found himself reaching for the zenith of his ambition. However, self-aggrandizement has never been his destination, as his wish is to brighten the future of the earth by freely moving around the galaxy of science. The feelers he puts out into this universe will travel ahead of him to brighten the future.

“I was not a genius as a kid. But I remember that I was thinking, ‘I will live only once, so I want to do something good.’ I didn’t want to be the same as others, but to do something that others had not done. I majored in material sciences because I thought it would be good to deal with new materials in order to make something new. I wanted to be a researcher and so I completed my master's and doctoral courses. I was doing research just because I felt at home doing it, and I happened to obtain good results. I don’t feel vain about what I have accomplished. I just like what I’m doing, and I simply want to do work that I like and that can contribute to the earth’s environment.”

Professor Noh is an academic advisor in Climate and Energy Studies and the head of the Advanced Energy Conversion Materials & Devices Laboratory, and has long dedicated himself to the development of efficient solar energy conversion technologies. In the course of his research, he developed a halide Perovskite next-generation solar cell technology that can be commercialized, and this has drawn attention from scientists, who see it as an innovative technology that can result in a paradigm shift.

His technology was selected as one of the Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies by in 2013, and one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies by the World Economic Forum in 2016. As one of his articles was published in and another in , which are the most authoritative academic journals in the sciences, he stood out as one of the great young scholars who will lead the way to the future of the world’s energy conversion technologies. He was listed among the ranks of Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) in 2018 and 2019 by the global company Clarivate Analytics, which showed how much the world is paying attention to his research. HCRs are those researchers whose articles are in the top 1% of cited papers each year, as listed in Clarivate's Web of Science database. Looking at this tremendous accomplishment, Professor Noh has never gotten carried away in triumphalism. Instead, he gives the sense of rocklike solidity as he perseveres in his work.

Reverse-Engineering Solutions

“We have been obtaining more than 90% of our energy from fossil fuels, and the ultimate goal is to change to renewable energy sources. Among sunlight, wind power, tidal power, hydroelectric power and thermoelectric power, the solar cell is the most promising future energy source. We only need ‘plates’ to install solar cells. The solar energy that the earth receives in just one hour is more than the total energy that humankind uses in a year. However, to assimilate all this energy, we need a site as large as the earth. The supply is unlimited but we cannot make use of it all. So I looked at the problem from the other direction. If we can solve the problem by positioning solar plates in all areas of the world, what about making a huge range of plates that can be installed anywhere? That was the starting point of my studies.”

For example, he thought of installing solar cell plates on the bonnets of vehicles, the walls of buildings, and even on the parasols that shade tables in front of convenience stores. This vision requires a high level of technology, and it did not seem viable from the cost point of view. Therefore he considered another option. What about using a low-level technology to manufacture a huge number of solar cells in a similar way to printing a newspaper? Each time he encountered a problem, he continued his research by thinking about ways around it.


He says many people have tried to produce solar cells on the basis of similar ideas, but the problem has been the extremely low efficiency of such mass-produced solar cells. However, the halide Perovskite solar cell that he has developed is different. It is cheap and easy to manufacture but it is also as efficient as the most efficient conventional silicone-based solar cells (26%). Its ease of manufacture and low price may open the door to its commercialization. He not only developed a high-efficiency Perovskite solar cell, but also a halide double-layer through a solvent process in order to successfully maximize the performance of a highly durable conductive polymer.

This was the birth of the ‘flexible’ Perovskite solar cell that can be gently bent. It can be integrated into household products and printed onto paper. The day when the unlimited supply of sunlight becomes our standard source of energy is approaching.

“The Perovskite solar cell is a game changer, something that will play a critical role in transforming the entire outcome or dynamics of the energy game. While I worked in the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology for six years from 2011, I conducted a joint study on Perovskite solar cell technology with Professor Seok, Sang-Il. Our work was in tune with global demand for the next step forward in solar technology, and I was lucky to be working with highly respected fellow researchers.”

The key to success is commercialization, which entails attracting business investment. His task is to turn the technology into something that is meaningful and promising enough to gain this investment. He knows that to enable anyone to use the product easily it is necessary to further increase its efficiency and safety. He is working on this step by step by overturning conventional approaches, as he has always done. Fortunately, many companies are showing interest, because what everyone thought was impossible is gradually being realized.

“It was March 2017 when I moved from the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology to Korea University. The past three years have been a truly wonderful time for me, because I enjoy meeting students. I didn’t know how happy I would be to pursue a certain goal with students who have ideas that are similar to mine. I believe that the students that I’m teaching now will surpass me soon. I want to do my best to teach them well so that this belief may be borne out.”

As the earth is growing hotter, it is increasingly likely that our lives will become hellish. Hence, the development of renewable energy is a task whose practitioners aim to save us all. Having turned 40 in Korean age, Professor Noh will continue to conduct research which aims to save the earth with the imagination of a small boy and the initiative of a young man. He thinks that he will be happier in his 40s than he was in his 30s, because he has put down deep roots. Just like a deep-rooted tree is not shaken by wind, his dream to contribute to the world in whatever studies he undertakes will never be shaken. He is still young but is already mature enough not to be diverted from his core mission.

Professor Jun Hong Noh has studied next-generation solar cells, and has recently been drawing much attention for his studies on halide-based solar cells. As a result of being evaluated as an innovative technology that can form a paradigm shift in the field, his technology was selected as one of the Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies by in 2013 and as one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies by the World Economic Forum in 2016. He has published 91 SCI papers which according to Web of Science have been cited 21,107 times (as of August 2019). In addition, in the last five years, he has registered 25 Korean patents and four international patents in the field of Perovskite solar cells.


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