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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Sustainable development of Solar Power technology for electricity generation in developing countries.


The world is gradually experiencing unprecedented changes to our way of life because of the rising concerns of climate change. The impact of climate change to agriculture, industry, energy, housingand transport could radically bring rise to a new world order. Energy has been touted to be the most important factor to tackle climate change. This is because a considerable amount of current energy use is obtained from fossil fuel-based sources, which contributes to global warming through carbon dioxide emission. For this reason, research into alternative and renewable sources of energy in wind, marine and  solar  power  are  being  carried  out  to  develop  technologies  that  can replace  fossil  fuels  and introduce a low carbon economy.

My research focused on the sustainable development of solar power for electricity generation. This encompassed two main aspects. The first aspect was to investigate the prospects of solar power technologies penetrating and becoming dominant in energy markets as well as investigating the drawbacks of low cost fabrication of solar cell devices with regard to their performance and production. This involved exploring and identifying the most sustainable solar technology option for long-term development, which were categorized under concentrated solar power, solar thermal  electricity and solar photovoltaics (PV). This exploration was conducted on the basis of the Three Pillars of Sustainability, which are the social, economic and environment attributes. With the aid of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), solar PV was identified as the most sustainable of the three options because of the lower environmental impact, better social inclusion and cost-effectiveness.

The second aspect of this project was to further research into the most sustainable option, which was Solar PV. The research included performing series of laboratory experiments to explore solutions to the drawbacks that currently impede the development of nanowire-based solar cells such as cost, efficiency and life span. Current laboratory results have identified materials that are suitable as encapsulation for flexible nanowire-based cells and will enable sustainable development of this type of solar PV.

In conclusion, solar PV demonstrated the merits for long-term sustainable development. However, due to its relatively low performance and life span, there are drawbacks that impede the development of this technology into a dominant source for electricity.

The future work will involve focusing on and completing the optimization of materials for functional nanowire-based solar cells. The device performance and other properties should be  further optimized by varying device fabrication conditions to adopt an optimal fabrication process.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.