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8 March 2007


NREL’s multi-junction solar cell pioneers awarded Dan David Prize

Jerry Olson and Sarah Kurtz of the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who pioneered the multi-junction solar cell, have been named Dan David Prize Laureates for 2007 in a ceremony in Paris. They share the $1m prize in the ‘Future Time Dimension: Quest for Energy’ category with NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

Olson and Kurtz were selected for their “exceptional and profound contributions to the field of photovoltaic energy”, according to the prize committee. Solar cells based on the scientists' work “have the potential to alleviate the world's impending energy crisis”.

Multi-junction solar cells incorporating GaAs on germanium substrates have been used in most space satellites for many years, as well as in exploratory space-craft such as the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. But a cell made by Spectrolab of Sylmar, CA, USA based on Olson's and Kurtz’s design, using a concentrator (lenses and mirrors to focus the sunlight), in December achieved record efficiency of 40.7% in converting light to electricity.

The prize “reflects the promise of the technology as a partial solution to the world's need for renewable energy,” said Kurtz.  “In the past few years, the investment in concentrator systems using high-efficiency, multi-junction solar cells has mushroomed,” he adds.  “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.”

“Two of our scientists winning this prize is a great testament to the progress and promise of renewable energy technologies,” said NREL director Dan Arvizu.

The Dan David Prize, now in its sixth year, is endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University . It is organized around three time dimensions, past, present and future. This year the future dimension was dedicated to the Quest for Energy.

See related item:

Spectrolab’s new terrestrial solar cell smashes 40% efficiency barrier

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