Durham University in the UK will lead a four-year solar energy research project with a focus on producing thin-film photovoltaic cells. The £6.3 million study, known as PV-21, will get under way this April.The project’s goal is to make solar energy more competitive and sustainable, especially given the recent increase in fossil fuel prices.The research team said that it will attempt to cut the cost of solar cell production by reducing the thickness of the cells. Making a solar semiconductor thinner by one-millionth of a meter in solar cells generating 1 GW of power could save 50 tons of material. The researchers also will experiment with low-cost materials that could be used and will look at nanotechnology, dyes and ultrathin silicon as possible options. Some solar cells currently are made from expensive components such as indium, which costs approximately £320 per kg.The research effort will include seven other UK-based universities and nine industrial partners. The project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the SUPERGEN initiative and is one of the UK’s largest ever research projects on photovoltaic energy.The PV-21 group recently finished a four-year research project that focused on the development of thin-layer photovoltaic cells using compound semiconductors based on cadmium telluride and chalcopyrite systems.