Princeton University Establishes Solar Award

While some of the earliest significant solar cell technological advances and companies originated in the United States, the majority of installations and production are now concentrated in the Far East, Europe and developing countries where the relative cost of electricity is high or the level of infrastructure build-out is low.

Plenty of folks in the U.S. solar industry would like to change that – and a newly established research award from Princeton University could help. The Princeton University’s Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM) teamed up Global Photonic Energy Corporation (GPEC) and The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) to offer a thesis-level prize for budding solar PV developers. “The Global Photonic Energy Corporation, Edith & Martin B. Stein Solar Energy Innovation Award” is being established to encourage and recognize young innovators at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Princeton University. With global demand for electricity continually expanding, oil prices setting records and broad recognition of the environment and geopolitical implications of deploying fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) to power generation plants, solar energy has emerged as an extremely promising and underutilized source of clean, infinite and renewable energy. “Young scientists and innovators are critical to bringing new ideas and breakthroughs to the global photonic energy [solar] industry,” said Sherwin I. Seligsohn, Chairman and CEO of GPEC, which specializes in molecular organic photovoltaic (PV) technology and helped establish the award. “Historically, some of the most extraordinary accomplishments in numerous scientific disciplines have come to early career innovators.” A July 24, 2004 Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Fewer Grants Force Younger Scientists to Leave Academia” described challenges that younger scientist are facing as research funding grants are increasingly being awarded to more experienced investigators. This trend is despite the fact that, young scientists have often delivered incredible discoveries. Innovation is critical to the immense expansion needed for the global solar energy industry to become a significant portion of total global electricity demand. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration International Energy Outlook 2004 estimates that world energy consumption will increase 54 percent by 2025, and electricity consumption will nearly double. High cost and limited form factors have been cited as playing important roles in the less than 0.01 percent penetration that solar generation commands of total global primary energy demand. Some recent efforts have focused on the use of carbon-based or “organic” materials, as opposed to conventional inorganic, silicon-based materials. Proponents say organic materials have a “disruptive” potential to create third generation solar cells that are inexpensive, lightweight, flexible and durable and which have new and interesting features. “Every 15 minutes the sun delivers more energy to the earth than the entire planet consumes in electricity annually. Breakthrough technology and new insights are needed in the solar business to successfully harvest the incredible photonic resources of the sun and take the industry to a new level,” said Aaron L. Wadell, President and COO of GPEC. GPEC, through a decade long relationship with researchers at Princeton University and the University of Southern California, is working to develop organic solar energy conversion technologies that can be used to generate electricity. The company said their organic PV cells developed at Princeton University have consistently held the world record for organic PV cell power conversion efficiency.
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