ENI Renewable Energy Prize 2012 for Albert Polman and Harry Atwater

The prestigious ENI Renewable and Non-conventional Energy Prize 2012 has been awarded jointly to AMOLF director and NanoNextNL board member Albert Polman and Harry Atwater of the California Institute of Technology for their research on high-efficiency solar cells based on nanophotonic design. The Jury recognized their Candidature as ‘outstanding and fully deserving the Prize’.

Light management

Polman and Atwater’s research addresses the two key problems in photovoltaic technology: 1) conventional solar cells do not convert all light from the sun into electricity, and 2) solar cells are relatively expensive to manufacture because of high materials costs. These problems can be partly solved by better control over the capturing and absorption of sunlight in the solar cell. Polman and Atwater call this “light management”, a term that is now used worldwide in solar cell research. They demonstrated that by integrating precisely designed metallic or dielectric nanostructures into the solar cell, the different colors of light from the sun are more efficiently absorbed and more efficiently converted into electricity. Their designs also enable the thickness of solar cells to be strongly reduced, so that they can be manufactured at much lower costs. This is particularly interesting for solar cells based on materials that are scarce in the earth’s crust.  The nano-solar cell technology introduced by Polman and Atwater is scalable to large volumes.

The ENI Award

The ENI Award was established in July 2007 by the Italian energy company ENI to stimulate the development of innovative ideas for a better use of energy sources, promote environmental research and to stimulate new generations of researchers. The yearly ENI Award has four distinct prizes: New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons; Renewable and Non-conventional Energy; Protection of the Environment; and Debut in Research. The jury is composed of renowned researchers in the area of energy and the environment, including Nobel prize winners. They award the prize to the best research and the best researchers in the field of energy worldwide. According to ENI the ambition of the ENI awards is become a Nobel Prize for Energy.

Albert Polman

Albert Polman is one of the pioneers of nanophotonics, the research field that concerns the control of light at extremely small length scales. He has been working on applying nanophotonic concepts in photovoltaics since 2006. Polman is a member of the NanoNextNL executive board.

Harry A. Atwater

Harry Atwater is one of the pioneers of nanophotonics and has been active in photovoltaics research for over twenty years.

Polman and Atwater have a long-standing collaboration. Members of their research groups frequently travel between Amsterdam and California. Aside from many papers on nanostructured solar cell designs, they published key review and commentary papers in Nature Materials (2010, 2012). Polman is affiliated with Caltech as a visiting scientist; Atwater is a visiting scientist at AMOLF.

(source: adopted from www.amolf.nl)

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