"I studied physics and maths at school and at ANU, intending to become an astronomer, but then decided that solar energy was a much more useful area of study because I had become interested in conservation. I completed my PhD at the University of New South Wales working under the supervision of Martin Green," says Andrew.
"I work in several areas of solar energy.
"One of the new technologies we have been developing at ANU are SLIVER solar cells. These efficient cells use much less silicon than conventional cells. A conventional solar panel needs about 60 silicon wafers to convert sunlight to 140 watts of power - in comparison the SLIVER cells need only the equivalent of two silicon wafers. Silicon is the costliest part of solar panels today and the SLIVER cells dramatically reduce the amount needed.
"Also, SLIVER cells can be lightweight, flexible and transparent. They could make many new applications possible, such as flexible SLIVER panels for building roofs and roll-up portable solar panels."
One of Andrew's other research areas is microconcentrators. In concentrator photovoltaic systems, sunlight is focused on the photovoltaic cells, using optics such as mirrors and lenses, to increase the amount of sunlight the cells receive. In partnership with Chromasun Inc, ANU is developing a roof-mounted microconcentrator system that can concentrate sunlight up to 30 times and deliver both electricity and thermal energy to buildings.
Andrew's work has been recognised with a number of awards, including the Engineering Excellence Award for SLIVER technology from Engineers Australia; the Weeks Award for Achievement Through Action from the International Solar Energy Society; and the ACT Sustainable Cities Environmental Innovation Award in 2006.
The ANU solar energy group is one of largest in Australia, with about 80 staff and PhD students working in photovoltaics, solar concentrators, thermal and hybrid photovoltaic–thermal systems.
"This group is one of my main achievements," says Andrew.
"I founded the photovoltaics group 20 years ago, building upon the pioneering work of Stephen Kaneff and colleagues in solar thermal concentrators from the early 1970s. It has grown in breadth and depth of skills, disciplines and experience. As well as the technologies we hope to develop, we are also developing people. These are the key ingredients that are needed for significant progress to happen.
"I aim to further grow the group - without critical mass we can't take our ideas to the next level of development.
"I also get involved in the policy and economics of solar energy and sustainability. This is an area not just about the science but also about how implementation can be supported and improved, so that meeting our energy needs in Australia and globally becomes sustainable in the long term."