16 April 2020
NREL alumna Sarah Kurtz honored by National Academy of Engineering
Photovoltaics (PV) expert and longtime National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) alumna Dr Sarah Kurtz was recently elected to the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for her contributions to the development of high-efficiency solar cells and leadership in solar cell reliability and quality.
Starting her career as a postdoc in 1985 at the Solar Energy Research Institute (which became NREL six years later), Kurtz’s research focused largely on multi-junction photovoltaics, concentrator PVs, and PV reliability.
During more than 30 years at NREL, Kurtz played an integral role in spearheading research on how to grow high-quality solar cells, measuring multi-junction cells, and evaluating how their performance is affected under various wavelengths of light. Multi-junction solar cells convert sunlight to electricity at the highest efficiencies of any type of solar cell and have proven critical for space- and weight-limited applications, such as powering satellites.
Kurtz also mentored hundreds of students and researchers. She moved from NREL in 2017 to join the faculty of University of California, Merced. Kurtz also holds six patents and has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications and conference proceedings.
“Few have made as large a global impact on solar energy R&D as Sarah,” comments Bill Tumas, NREL associate laboratory director for Materials and Chemical Science and Technology. “Her contributions span a very wide range including developing high-efficiency multi-junction photovoltaics, creating the science and standards for PV reliability, and providing thought leadership on all almost every aspect of solar energy from fundamental photovoltaics to broad-scale deployment and integration.”
Kurtz remains a part-time NREL employee and continues to support it through participation in multiple projects including the development of international standards.
The NAE is part of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education, including (where appropriate) significant contributions to the engineering literature and to the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.
Election of new NAE members is the culmination of a year-long process. The ballot is set in December and the final vote for membership occurs during January.