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  • Nanophotonic Solar Research Wins Energy Prize
May 2012
PASADENA, Calif., and AMSTERDAM, May 24, 2012 — Albert Polman and Harry Atwater have received Italian energy company ENI’s Renewable and Non-conventional Energy Prize 2012 for their research on high-efficiency solar cells based on nanophotonic design. The €200,000 prize will be awarded June 15 in the presence of the president of the Italian Republic.

The nanophotonics pioneers’ research addresses two key photovoltaic technology problems: Conventional solar cells do not convert all light from the sun into electricity, and solar cells are relatively expensive to manufacture because of the high cost of materials. Better control over the capture and absorption of sunlight in the solar cell could address these problems.

Polman, the director of AMOLF (the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics) in Amsterdam, and Atwater, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, were jointly awarded the prize for their “light management” research. They demonstrated that, by integrating precisely designed metallic or dielectric nanostructures into a solar cell, the various colors of light from the sun are more efficiently absorbed and converted into electricity. In addition, the designs enable the thickness of solar cells to be strongly reduced so that they can be manufactured at much lower costs. The nanosolar technology is scalable to large volumes.

The award was established in July 2007 by ENI to stimulate the development of innovative ideas for a better use of energy resources, to promote environmental research and to stimulate new generations of research. The award is one of four distinct annual prizes. Its jury consists of energy and environmental researchers – including Nobel Prize winners – who award the prize to the best research in the field of energy.

The award is posed to become the Nobel Prize for Energy, ENI said.

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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...
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