Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - SOLNET (Advanced solar heating and cooling for buildings)

In the SOLNET project eleven early stage researchers were employed at nine different universities in seven different European countries. Three of the researchers meanwhile received their PhD degree and five researchers were expected to complete their PhD project by the end of 2011.

A PhD course programme was developed in the framework of SOLNET. The network carried out six PhD courses in the field of solar thermal energy and one course on renewable energies and energy efficiency. Each of the courses included an intensive contact phase for about one week at the partner universities. These phases included excursions, workshops and secondary topics, like social issues and presentation skills. Additionally, the participants were expected to have sound background knowledge of the course topics and carry out home work for the courses. For networking reasons, the courses were also open for other PhD students, mostly active in renowned research institutes on solar thermal. All but one of the courses were fully booked out with 20 to 30 participants. The courses were very successful, partly with outstanding feedback by the participants and also by members of the scientific community responsible for PhD education, as well as by supervisors and experienced scientists from other partner institutions.

Besides the SOLNET scholars, a total of 73 other different students participated in the courses. The course participants were from 37 different countries, including for example Canada, Burkina Faso, Thailand and China. In particular, course evaluations showed a very positive feedback concerning networking opportunities, lectures, course projects and excursions. During the SOLNET project, research co-operations between the partners were intensified significantly. Experiments on components, like gas burners, novel storage tanks, as well as façade and concentrating solar collectors were carried out in different research institutes, in their laboratories, as well as field tests. Numerical models for these components were developed and used for simulation studies with jointly defined reference conditions. The models developed were tested by partner institutes and with joint experiments and internships of the students at each other's sites. Studies on system optimisation and long term monitoring of solar heating systems took into account a wide variety of system types, used in different applications and climate zones.

Approximately 30 % of the person months were allocated to female students, as foreseen by the contract. Four SOLNET researchers received co-funding for their PhD projects from national or international sources or from industry. Nine of ten SOLNET students carried out internships at foreign partner institutions or in a company, with a mean duration of about two months.

Concluding, because of the SOLNET project Europe was considered as the centre for PhD education in solar thermal energy systems in the world. Networking and courses would be continued after the end of the Marie-Curie project, financed by the solar thermal industry. The critical mass of students was reached to continue courses in a one-year interval. The web page was still used after the project completion to provide general information about the project and networking, as well as for future courses and international Master students in solar heating and job advertisements.

Solar thermal research at universities was established and progressed significantly during the SOLNET project. The scientific aims and outcomes were discussed intensively in the scientific community during many international conferences, particularly during the biennial EuroSun Conferences and the ISES Solar World Congresses. SOLNET offered great opportunities for networking that was extensively used by students in the field. Most European PhD students in the sector were in direct contact with the network partners and participated in PhD courses. The SOLNET project was regarded as a great success in the overall solar thermal scientific community.

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