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Solar Cell Scientists Share in $1M Prize

Photonics.com
Mar 2007
GOLDEN, Colo., March 8, 2007 -- Two scientists at the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) who pioneered the multijunction solar cell have been named Dan David Prize laureates for 2007. Jerry Olson and Sarah Kurtz received their award and two-thirds of the $1 million prize in a ceremony today in Paris.

Olson and Kurtz share the Dan David Prize, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and located at Tel Aviv University in Israel, with NASA climate scientist James Hansen.Kurtz&Olson.jpg
Sarah Kurtz and Jerry Olson of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have been named Dan David Prize laureates for 2007. They will share the $1 million prize in the category of Future Time Dimension: Quest for Energy with a NASA climate scientist. (Photo by Sarah Barba)
Olson and Kurtz were selected for their "exceptional and profound contributions to the field of photovoltaic energy," the prize committee said. Solar cells based on the scientists' work "have the potential to alleviate the world's impending energy crisis," according to the committee.

The scientists pioneered the multijunction solar cell, which uses layers of semiconductor material to gain extremely high efficiencies in converting sunlight to electricity. A cell based on Olson's and Kurtz's design and manufactured by Spectrolab recently set a world-record conversion efficiency of 40 percent. Most space satellites use multijunction solar cells, and the cells power the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Olson said "I knew we had a winner," when he thought of the design of the solar cell, but it took years of research by a team at NREL to reach the point of manufacturable devices. "My greatest reward has been the people I've worked with," Olson said.

The scientists hope the multijunction devices will help meet electrical needs on Earth through the use of lenses and mirrors that concentrate sunlight on the highly efficient solar cells.

"I am honored to receive this prize, especially because it reflects the promise of the technology as a partial solution to the world's need for renewable energy," Kurtz said. "In the past few years, the investment in concentrator systems using high-efficiency, multijunction solar cells has mushroomed. Although this investment is not yet reflected by large installations, the Dan David Prize recognizes this technology in the "future" category, predicting that it will be a huge success. I look forward to the day when this and other renewable technologies will provide the world with sustainable energy."

The Dan David Prize, now in its sixth year, is organized around three time dimensions, past, present and future. Each year, new fields of focus are chosen within the time dimensions. This year the future dimension was dedicated to the Quest for Energy.

For more information, visit: www.dandavidprize.com


GLOSSARY
cell
1. A single unit in a device for changing radiant energy to electrical energy or for controlling current flow in a circuit. 2. A single unit in a device whose resistance varies with radiant energy. 3. A single unit of a battery, primary or secondary, for converting chemical energy into electrical energy. 4. A simple unit of storage in a computer. 5. A limited region of space. 6. Part of a lens barrel holding one or more lenses.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
solar cell
A device for converting sunlight into electrical energy, consisting of a sandwich of P-type and N-type semiconducting wafers. A photon with sufficient energy striking the cell can dislodge an electron from an atom near the interface of the two crystal types. Electrons released in this way, collected at an electrode, can constitute an electrical current.
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