King Charles Awards The Queen Elizabeth Prizes for Engineering

Alice Duthie
on 18 October 2023

In a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, His Majesty King Charles III recently awarded the 2022 and 2023 Queen Elizabeth Prizes for Engineering (QEPrize). Following the presentation, there will be a Gala Dinner at the Old War Office in London to mark the tenth anniversary of the QEPrize.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is presented to engineers who are responsible for groundbreaking innovations that have been of global benefit.

PERC Solar Photovoltaic Technology – 2023 QEPrize

Those honoured with the award for 2023 are UNSW Professor Martin Green, ANU Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Aihua Wang and Dr Jianhua Zhao for the invention and development of Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar photovoltaic technology, which has brought down the cost of solar panels by 80% over the past decade. PERC solar cell technology has helped solar power become the cheapest source of electricity in many regions across the world.

The achieved this by improving the quality of both the top and the rear surface of standard silicon solar cells. PERC introduced an additional layer on the back surface that helped prevent recombination and, further, reflected unused photons back into the silicon to generate more electrons.

“To receive this prestigious award from His Majesty King Charles is a proud moment for me, but I hope also for my UNSW colleagues and students. The QEPrize is famously committed to recognising engineering that delivers transformational change in society and I believe a transformational shift towards solar, and wind generated power is inevitable. It is a critical trajectory that we’re on and it is special to be recognised for our part in that, today.” – Scientia Professor Martin Green 

The world’s strongest permanent magnets – 2022 QEPrize

Dr. Masato Sagawa was awarded the 2022 QEPrize for his contribution to the development and global commercialization of the world’s most powerful permanent magnet, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB). This magnet is now an essential component in smartphones, cars, and robots, and is also now inside almost every electric vehicle and offshore wind turbine.

Sagawa pioneered the development of the sintered neodymium-iron-boron (Nd-Fe-B) magnet by enhancing its heat resistance in the 1980s and 1990s with the introduction of dysprosium (Dy). This innovation significantly improved the magnet’s performance, making it a widely adopted industrial material for high-efficiency and high-torque density applications.

“It has been some time since I was awarded the 2022 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, but I am more honoured than ever to receive this trophy in the presence of The King. Many years ago, experts in my field were convinced that magnets could not be made with rare earth metals and iron, but I remained curious and today have been recognised for effort and perseverance in this idea. I hope the QEPrize will inspire young researchers to persevere with their efforts and continue to think on how engineering can deliver for the needs of society.” – Dr Masato Sagawa.  

‘Create the Trophy’ competition

Each winner was presented with trophies designed by young people through the global ‘Create the Trophy’ competition. Hundreds of school, college and university students entered the competition to develop their own concept for the QEPrice trophy, where the winning project is then 3D printed and presented to the winners. 25-year-old engineering student Anja Brandl from Switzerland designed the 2023 trophy for the solar energy pioneers and 19-year-old web content producer Anshika Agarwal from India designed the 2022 trophy received by Dr Sagawa.

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