Arizona State University has hired three prominent scientists to launch a new Solar Power Laboratory aimed at advancing solar energy technology.
The lab will coordinate with existing ASU solar research efforts in seeking grants to improve the efficiency of solar energy systems and to make them more economically feasible, said George Maracas, a former Motorola engineer who will become the lab's chief operating officer.
"The idea is to form an umbrella organization that will build on ASU's strengths, then hire good people in the field and build those research capabilities," he said. "We will be setting up lab facilities that industry will want to join."
The goal is to make ASU one of the leading universities in solar research and to help build a major solar-energy industry in Arizona, he said.
Initially the major thrust will be photovoltaics, because ASU already is prominent in that field, he said.
Photovoltaic systems, made primarily of silicon, turn sunlight into electric current.
ASU researchers have received five grants from the Solar Energy Industry Association to develop and test materials that produce electricity from sunlight more efficiently, he said.
Eventually the lab could move into other technologies ranging from thin-film solar to artificial photosynthesis, he said.
The $3 million lab is being funded partly through the Board of Regents' Solar Energy Initiative, which is supporting research and development in renewable energy. It is also a partnership between the university's Global Institute of Sustainability and the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
Also joining the staff are Christiana Honsberg and Stuart Bowden, both from the University of Delaware. Honsberg helped to establish the Center for Photovoltaic Engineering at the Delaware institution, which developed the first undergraduate degree in photovoltaic engineering and received the largest solar research grant in the country - $50 million from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Bowden worked at the university's Institute of Energy Conversion, where he helped to improve silicon solar cell manufacturing.
Both previously worked in academic solar programs at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Honsberg will be chief scientist at the ASU lab, and Bowden will be industrial liaison.
They will continue to work primarily in Delaware until January, when lab facilities are expected to be ready at ASU, Maracas said.
One of the chief aims of the lab will be to expand the fledgling solar energy industry in Arizona, said Jonathan Fink, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.
"To ... increase the chances for Arizona to attract more international solar companies, we decided ASU needed to bring in new faculty members who have outstanding reputations in the global solar industry," he said.