Professor Michael Walls

BSc, PhD, MIMMM, C.Phys, C.Eng, FInstP

  • Professor of Photovoltaics for Power Systems


Michael Walls is Professor of Photovoltaics for Power Systems in the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST). He is responsible for photovoltaics device research within CREST and his research focus is in thin film photovoltaics.

Mike started his career at Loughborough University in the Physics Department where he specialized in surface and thin films research and set up a surface analysis facility which provided a successful service to UK industry using a variety of techniques including Auger electron spectroscopy, XPS, Dynamic SIMS and Laser Microprobe. The commercial part of this activity later became the highly successful Loughborough Surface Analysis Ltd.

In 1984, he moved into industry, first in Technical Director and then in Managing Director roles within VG Instruments plc (now Thermo-Fisher Scientific). His team at VG was the first to develop Focused Ion Beam (FIB) technology and the world’s first Imaging Time-of-Flight SIMS. VG Instruments won the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1987. He then went on to be a founder of a series of high technology companies.

Mike returned to Loughborough in 2009. Since 2012 he has been the Director of the EPSRC Supergen Solar Hub and Network. From 2012-2016 he was a member of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) UK PV Strategy Group and Co-Chair of its Innovation Task Force. He is a member of the ‘Energy’ and ‘Ion and Plasma Surface Interactions (IPSI)’ Group Committees of the Institute of Physics and organizes the ‘Advances in Photovoltaics’ meeting held annually in London.

He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the IEEE Photovoltaics Specialist Conference (PVSC). He is also a member of the Technical Committee on PV Devices for the IEEE Electronic Devices Society (EDS). He was also a member of the Solar Commission which reported in June 2019.

He has published more than 250 research papers, 3 books and 21 patents.

Mike is a serial entrepreneur and was founder and Chairman of Applied Thermal Control Ltd (1987-2018). The company was acquired by SDI plc in December 2017. He was previously founder and non-executive director of PowerVision Ltd (acquired by VisionEase Inc). Prior to that he was founder and Chairman of Applied Vision Ltd; the company developed a new magnetron sputtering process for the deposition of broadband anti-reflection coatings on spectacle lenses and received the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1996. The company was purchased by BOC plc in 2001.


Research interests

  • Improving the efficiency of thin film CdTe devices by engineering the band gap by adding Selenium (in collaboration with Colorado State University)
  • High efficiency thin film Cd(Se)Te photovoltaic devices by improved buffer layers and Group V doping (in collaboration with Colorado State University)
  • Understanding the atomic scale mechanisms responsible for increased conversion efficiency using advanced analytical techniques
  • Broadband anti-reflection coatings for solar cover glass
  • Multilayer optical coatings for solar cover glass for infra-red reflection
  • Super-hydrophobic coatings for solar cover glass for anti-soiling
  • Understanding the mechanisms leading to degradation of materials used in solar cells and modules