TU, Skydweller Aero announce partnership - Engineering & Natural Sciences

TU, Skydweller Aero announce partnership

Air Force awards Small Business Technology Transfer to research high-performance low-cost solar array for UAVs

Earlier this month, The University of Tulsa and Skydweller Aero Inc. officially announced their partnership, based on a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award by the U.S. Air Force to research high-efficiency, cost-effective solar panels for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This industry-academic collaboration focuses on developing and utilizing next-generation technology to improve the performance of high-grade silicon cells, enabling increased efficiency attained only by gallium-arsenide cells to date at a significantly reduced cost to its end-user.

“The University of Tulsa takes great pride in our ambition to support sustainability initiatives and research and development projects in the energy sector,” said Rose Gamble, Tandy professor of computer science and engineering and senior associate dean in TU’s College of Engineering and Natural Science. “We see this as the beginning of a great, synergistic relationship that has the potential to offer a renewable solution to a diverse group of customers.”

Preliminary studies have been performed on mixed halide lead perovskite layers on current silicon solar cells and have demonstrated significant advancements in power conversion efficiency. By combining Skydweller Aero’s expertise in developing large-scale solar aircraft and TU’s premier research talent and facilities, the team is confident there is an opportunity to create a meaningful breakthrough.

Physics Professor Parameswar Hari in the lab
Professor Parameswar Hari

“This is an exciting time to work on innovative perovskite research to advance the study of solar arrays for real-world applications,” said Parameswar Hari, TU professor of physics and director of the Oklahoma Photovoltaic Research Institute. “By optimizing the absorption layer of silicon solar cells, we believe we can enhance efficiency by more than 60%. To see such promise at the early stages of our work has been deeply rewarding for all of our university researchers. Our team is very passionate about this project.”

The university and Skydweller Aero launched the STTR in March 2021. Both parties are thrilled to begin their first research and development project together and look forward to additional opportunities for partnership.

“We are delighted to be working with Dr. Hari, along with other talented researchers at The University of Tulsa,” said Chief Technology Officer Allen Gardner, who is also acting as lead investigator. “As the commercial and defense markets strengthen their efforts to reverse climate change, we strongly believe that clean technology will become the top priority in the aviation and aerospace industries. TU has invested heavily in researching a unique, cost-effective solution, and we are excited to utilize our decades of experience in this sector to jointly propel solar energy forward and make silicon solar cells commercially viable across industries.”