Hoeven: Navy Awards $2.5 Million for Research to Improve Solar Cells & Military Asset Mobility at NDSU

Research Began under Then-Governor Hoeven’s Centers of Excellence Initiative; Senator Secured Funding through Defense Appropriations Committee

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded $2.5 million to Dr. Philip Boudjouk at North Dakota State University (NDSU) to develop silicon-based materials for use in solar cells. The goal of the project is to create cells that can produce electricity in low-light conditions, including in moonlight, cloud cover, indoors and underwater. This would support greater mobility for military assets and provide flexibility to a variety of missions, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations. At the same time, the research seeks to develop methods for producing new silicon alloys at lower temperatures than required for existing technologies, allowing solar cells to be produced more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Dr. Boudjouk’s early research into silicon solar cells was conducted under North Dakota’s Centers of Excellence (COE) initiative, which Hoeven launched during his time as governor. Then, as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured funding for ONR to pursue silicon-based solar cell research and worked with Dr. Boudjouk and the Navy to advance this collaboration. 

“This award builds on Dr. Boudjouk’s extensive work at NDSU and will provide important benefits to strengthen the capabilities of our military assets and enhance our nation’s ability to defend ourselves and our allies,” said Senator Hoeven. “By developing more efficient solar cells, UAS and other assets will be able to operate for longer and in more environments. Further, this research has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of producing these materials, helping taxpayer dollars go further.” 

“The COE and Navy funding secured by Senator Hoeven has allowed us to lay an important foundation for solar cell research. We are now in a position to make new materials with good potential to broaden the capabilities of solar cells while lowering their cost,” said Dr. Boudjouk.

Today’s award is part of Hoeven’s broader efforts to provide competitive research opportunities for North Dakota universities and businesses. To this end, the senator worked to fund the following priorities in FY2021, in addition to funds awarded today: 

  • $17 million for the DoD Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCOR) program, of which UND and NDSU are a part.
  • $10 million for Navy research into UAS payloads and performance, which supported an ONR contract with Ideal Aerosmith.
  • $7 million for developing advanced power and battery systems for spacecraft, which supports the partnership between Packet Digital and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
  • $5 million for augmented reality systems for Army vehicles, which UND is currently helping develop.