Archive for October, 2008

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #4: Freiberg

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

So the reason for the Germany stop finally arrives: the Fraunhofer!

Fraunhofer ISE is the largest solar research institue in the world at the moment, and we went to check it out and visit Emily and Shelly, a couple of UNSW post-grads who are there on exchange.

Emily gave us a tour of the many, many buildings and labs of the Fraunhofer, except the two we were most interested in of course, their ink jet printing and laser doping labs. But the whole thing was really cool. We saw where they cast multicrystalline ingots, and where they saw them into wafers. Emily showed us the thin film lab she works in, and some dirty lab areas, and we looked in the windows of the clean labs and PV Tech - their pilot production facility. We saw module testing. Had lunch. Met lots of peolple. It was very interesting.

Fraunhofer cells

Dye Sol

Group at FISE

Karolin and her boyfriend Werner also live in Frieberg, so Budi and I stayed with them while Roland and Stan stayed with Emily and Shelly. We all went out to a Biergarten at the top of this small mountain at sunset for a drink, then met up with a tonne of other people for a huge German dinner (Roland learned: “Ich moechte ein Schnitzel essen!”), and then went out for ice cream. And so many friends! It was awesome once again, just like Taipei, we found we had so many friends everywhere we went and that just made travelling so much more fun.

Biergarten sunset

Freiberg dinner

Ice cream group

Karo's place

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #3: Heidelberg

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Since the school only will pay for things we do in Europe related to PV, we decided to do as much PV-related stuff as we could. Our institute at UNSW used to be the largest solar research group in the world. We have roughly 70 to 100 researchers at the Centre I think. Our major competition comes from the Fraunhofer ISE in Germany. They used to be about the same size as us, but in recent years have undergone explosive growth and now they eclipse us: 700 researchers, and they can do everything from making their own mc-Si wafers, to module lifetime testing. Everything. It’s mad. So we decided to visit. Fraunhofer ISE is located in Freiburg, and since Heidelberg lies between Frankfurt and Freiburg, we took a pit-stop on the way south.

Charmed Martha struck again here. Of the 3 days we were in Germany, 2 of them were cool, crappy and rainy. Luckily the Heidelberg day was beautiful, sunny and warm. We locked our bags up at the train station, and walked a fair way to the castle along the river. The day and the way were so picturesque that the guys were stopping to take photos about every 5 feet. I’ve cut it down a bit for the post. We enjoyed the castle, I bought us cheap sandwich fixings for lunch, tried to get Roland to resist all the tourist trinkets, and were pretty jet-lagged and tired by then end and for a while just died and sat at a bus stop watching buses go by.

Heidelberg River

Me and Stan at the Castle

The Fellowship

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #2: Frankfurt

Monday, October 20th, 2008

From Taipei we went to Frankfurt, and spent a night there before continuing on to more PV related things. The first challenge was finding our hotel. The guys have never really done the backpacking thing, and they didn’t pack all that light, so they did not like dragging their suitcases around on public transit, and down the sidewalk and such. Then the hotel was overbooked :( But in a way, charmed Martha struck at this point, because we got upgraded to the higher-class hotel across the street, and were still in time for the all-you-can-eat free breakfast that was part of the room deal. And it was a mighty fine breakfast, none of this European Continental stuff. There were eggs and sausages, salads and cereals, yougurt, fresh fruit and cheese, rolls and luncheon meat. We stuffed ourselves.

We walked around the shopping district, the boys all got Vodafone SIM cards so they could call their girlfriends in Sydney, and then we checked out the old town. We had an awesome German dinner at some sort of German pub. The place was packed, and they just seat you with random other people at tables, but the vibe was really great. Stan and Roland were ready to find Europeans very cold, prejudiced, and such, but we really got off to a very good start in Germany. Everyone was really warm, helpful, interesting - basically, they were pleasantly surprised, and I was super relieved.

EUPVSEC’08 World Tour Stop #1: Taipei

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Yes, I’ve been bad at communicating, bad at updating, but it’s all about to be explained. This year I had the chance to attend one of the biggest solar energy conferences in the world, bill footed by UNSW. And since it was all the way over in Spain, we decided we should make a few stops along the way :)

About half of my group, and a good number of researchers from the Centre’s other groups, all went. Roland, Budi, Stanley and I did a bit of a whirl-wind European tour since it was Stan and Rona’s first times there. But Australia’s bloody far from everything, and so we stopped over in Taipei, Taiwan for 5 days on the way to Europe to visit Stanley’s family.

Taipei was AMAZING! No one in Taipei owns a house, space is too restricted, so Stanley’s family has 2 apartments, right across the hall from each other. One for the parents, one for Stanley and his sister Kelly. Kelly’s studying in Sydney as well, so I got her room, and Roland got his choice of the study or sitting room. Stan’s parents were amazing to us the whole time.

We slept in. We went shopping. We went up mountains. Went to the fisherman’s wharf. Old Chinese market streets. Night markets. Art galleries and museums. And ate ate ate. I thought I would explode. Japanese food is hugely popular, so one night Stan’s parents took us to and all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. The next it was teppanyaki. The night before we left is was Mos Burger (Japanese fast food - the burgers have buns made of rice! It was really cool).

The other cool thing is that we had an instant group of friends there, which I didn’t expect. Our friend Stacy, from Sydney, was also back in Taiwan at the time visiting her family, and so she drove Stan to pick us up at the airport when we arrived, and was our chauffeur for most of the trip. A couple of her high school friends joined us too when they could. Then on the weekend one of the engineers from E-Ton who had come to UNSW for training on laser doping from us joined us. Adam and I went to the top of Taipei 101 together. On Sunday his girlfriend Winnie (who is a poet! how cool is that?) got us all to go the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was waaaaaay better for me then shopping (turns out Stan and Rona are waaaaaaay more into shopping than I can handle).

Taipei 101

Another day we went to the National Museum. Taiwan actually calls itself the Republic of China. Back when the communists had a revolution in China, the nationalists (obviously) lost, and they went into exile in Taiwan. They took with them nearly all of the priceless Chinese historical artifacts from dynasty upon dynasty of Chinese rulers. So they have a pretty kick-ass national museum.

Fisherman's Wharf
The other reason I wanted to go to Taipei was because Stan’s dad is a dentist, and they offered to remove my wisdom teeth for free! How can I refuse? So on our second day there, Roland had his first dentist appointment ever, and I got some x-rays done. Turns out my teeth are way too complicated now to remove without minor surgery, and Stan’s dad would only undertake the surgery if I could stay the week. Unfortunately I didn’t have a week, so I couldn’t get my wisdom teeth out after all. But I did get a free clean then. And I got to keep the x-rays too.

So we had an amazing time in Taipei. Friendly people, excellent food, lots to do. Very lively, happening city.