Two NREL Scientists Honored for Work on Super-Efficient Solar Cells

Two scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Jerry Olson and Sarah Kurtz, have been named 2007 Dan David Prize Laureates for their contributions to the field of photovoltaics. In December 2006, a multi-junction cell based on Olson’s and Kurtz’s design, and manufactured by Spectrolab, set a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent.

This type of cell achieves a higher efficiency by capturing more of the solar spectrum. In a multi-junction cell, individual cells are made of layers, where each layer captures part of the sunlight passing through the cell — allowing the cell to absorb more energy from the sun’s light. According to the prize committee, Olson and Kurtz were selected for their “exceptional and profound contributions to the field of photovoltaic energy” and that solar cells based on the scientists work have the potential to alleviate the world’s impending energy crisis. “In the past few years, the investment in concentrator systems using high-efficiency, multi-junction solar cells has mushroomed,” said Kurtz. “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. I look forward to the day when this and other renewable technologies will provide the world with sustainable energy.” The Dan David Prize, now in its sixth year, is organized around three time dimensions, past, present and future. The NREL scientists will receive their award today [March 8] at a ceremony in Paris and share the $1 million prize in the Future Time Dimension: Quest for Energy category with NASA climate scientist James Hansen. “Two of our scientists winning this prize is a great testament to the progress and promise of renewable energy technologies,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu said. “I know I speak for the entire NREL family in saying we are tremendously proud of Jerry and Sarah.”
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