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Millennium Technology Prize goes to Grätzel

 

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2010-06-10
Millennium Technology Prize goes to Grätzel

Professor Michael Grätzel has been awarded the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize for his third-generation, low-cost, dye-sensitized solar cells.

The technology developed by Grätzel – who is Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland – represents an important step forward in making more of solar energy, primarily because of the excellent price/performance it offers.

“Math and science were my passions as a school kid, but also music,” says Professor Michael Grätzel. “Most of my friends thought that I would become a concert pianist, but I chose to study physics and chemistry … I am curious and curiosity leads my work. I try to study and mimic nature, like photosynthesis.”  Photo courtesy of Technology Academy Finland.

The technology represents a promising alternative to standard silicon photovoltaics, and is based on the use of low-cost materials and a simple manufacturing process. Grätzel cells, which open up the possibility of producing electricity-generating windows and low-cost solar panels, have just begun to appear in consumer products.

“Grätzel's innovation is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy,” according to Dr Ainomaija Haarla, the President and CEO of Technology Academy Finland.

Two other innovators have been named 2010 Millennium Laureates: Professor Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and Professor Stephen Furber, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manchester.

Richard Friend’s Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) have been a crucial milestone in plastic electronics, opening up the potential for exciting new products such as electronic paper, cheap organic solar cells, and illuminating wallpaper. Stephen Furber was the principal designer of the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, an innovation that has revolutionised mobile electronics; nearly 20 billion ARM-based chips have been manufactured over the last 25 years.

For more on the Millennium Technology Prize, Finland's biannual tribute to developers of life-enhancing technological innovations, see our article and www.millenniumprize.fi

Michael Grätzel’s dye-sensitized solar cells use dyes to carry out a type of artificial photosynthesis. Image courtesy of Technology Academy Finland.