Finding economic ways to capture and convert energy from our largest renewable energy source, the sun, is becoming more urgent as the world’s supply of fossil fuels vanishes. Now, the development of a new generation of solar cells might lead the way toward a better future.
Graetzel cells, named for Professor Michael Graetzel of the Ecole Polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, are dye-sensitized solar cells that are thin, flexible, and come in many shapes and colors, allowing them to answer different functional needs. Inspired by plant photosynthesis, they use dyes to transform sunlight into electricity.
Lausanne's EPFL+ECAL Lab initiated a design workshop around Graetzel cells that resulted in the traveling exhibition, Sunny Memories, shown in cooperation with swissnex in San Francisco at the California College of the Arts' Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, from April 16 to 24, 2010.
In parallel to the exhibit, swissnex San Francisco presents an in-depth discussion of the technology behind the project. Kevin Sivula of EPFL's Laboratory of Phototonics and Interfaces (led by Michael Graetzel), explains how dye-sensitized solar cells work and describes potential applications. Two of the leading manufacturers of the technology, Dyesol Inc. and G24 Innovations, present their market-oriented take on the groundbreaking innovation. And EPFL+ECAL Lab's Nicolas Henchoz discusses the path from technology to design taken in the Sunny Memories project.
Howard M. Clearfield is the Chief Technology Officer at G24 Innovations, Ltd., a personalized solar energy start-up company specializing in flexible dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC). His solar energy experience includes positions at OptiSolar, Inc. as Director of Product Development, and at The Dow Chemical Company, where he installed at 210 kW solar farm that has produced over 750 MW-hr of renewable energy. Prior to entering the solar energy field, Clearfield was Global Leader of Technical Services and Applications Development for Dow's LUMATION* Light-Emitting Polymers (LEPs). His group's responsibilities included strategic marketing, customer technical support, and development/transfer of industrial ink processing techniques.
He was also on the start-up team for Intarsia Corporation, a Silicon Valley company that produced thin film (passive) integrated circuits, from 1997 to 1999. From 1989 to 1996, he worked at IBM where his experience in thin film processing included projects ranging from fundamental studies of metal/polyimide interfaces to building thin film multichip module substrates for System 390 mainframe computers. He obtained a Ph.D. in Materials Science from The University of Wisconsin in 1985.
Brian Hardin is a fifth-year PhD student in the Material Science and Engineering Department at Stanford University. Mr. Hardin recently received the Material Research Society Gold Medal Award, the highest honor given to a graduate student in the field of Material Science, for his work on Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells.
As a Swiss Fulbright Scholar, Mr. Hardin researched and developed dye-sensitized solar cells under the supervision of Professor Michael Gratzel at lâ Ecole Polytechnique Farale de Lausanne in 2004-2005. He maintains close ties to the EPFL and Switzerland, returning several times a year to collaborate on research and hike in the Alps.
Marc Thomas is CEO of Dyesol Inc. He has 25 plus years of experience translating technologies into ongoing enterprises for startups as well as Fortune 100 companies. Recently, he was a founder and VP/Operations for Livescribe. Prior to this, he served as General Manager of The TECH Group, and also as VP/Global Operations at Top Ecology, a US-Japanese venture supplying solar thermal and PV-powered portable desalination and bio-based water treatment.
Other titles include CTO/VP Engineering for Alex & Wins, a technology transfer company, and VP Manufacturing for Ubiquity, a consumer products company. He was a founder, CTO and VP/Design and Manufacturing Engineering for Lectus and he held technical/marketing management and engineering positions at GE Plastics and Ford Motor Company. He holds a degree in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and holds eight patents with many more pending.