July 11, 2008

New lab aims to advance solar energy industry

Posted: July 11, 2008
portrait of Christina Honsberg
Christina Honsberg

ASU is strengthening its commitment to boost Arizona’s economic development prospects in the renewable energy industry by establishing the Solar Power Laboratory to advance solar energy research, education and technology.

Prominent scientists and engineers are being hired to lead the endeavor to improve the efficiency of solar electric power systems while making them more economically feasible.

“The Solar Power Laboratory will further build up the university’s already formidable solar energy research and develop collaborations with the energy industry to accelerate expansion of the state’s economy,” says ASU President Michael Crow.

The effort is a major part of ASU’s response to the Arizona Board of Regents’ Solar Energy Initiative, aimed at encouraging research and development to meet future needs for renewable energy sources, as well as help Arizona protect its environment, says Crow.

The laboratory will be a collaboration partnering the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
Christiana Honsberg, Stuart Bowden and George Maracas have been hired for the venture. Honsberg will be chief scientist, Bowden will be industrial liaison, and Maracas will be chief operating officer.

Honsberg and Bowden are coming to ASU from the University of Delaware, where they worked in the most extensive university solar research program in the United States. Maracas has made his mark with more than 25 years of accomplishments in engineering research, research management and technology commercialization.

“Our goal is for ASU to have the pre-eminent academic solar energy research, development and training program in the United States, and one of the top such programs in the world” says Jonathan Fink, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability. “The establishment of the Solar Power Laboratory and the hiring of Honsberg, Bowden and Maracas combined with our ongoing research efforts help us meet this objective.”

The lab’s goal in large part will be to support a significant facet of the economic development objectives of Arizona and the Southwest, says Fink, noting that expansion of the solar energy industry has been identified as an economic priority by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, the state Department of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Science Foundation Arizona.

“ASU and the state of Arizona have a number of exciting economic development and research opportunities associated with renewable energy. These three new faculty members will play key roles in making sure that these efforts are successful.”

Honsberg is considered a pioneer in photovoltaics – the solar cells that convert sunlight into energy. She helped establish the Center for Photovoltaic Engineering at the University of Delaware, which developed the first undergraduate degree in photovoltaic engineering.

Bowden has been working at the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion. He is credited with helping make major strides in improving the efficiency of silicon and crystalline silicon solar cells and the cell manufacturing process.

Maracas is returning to ASU after leaving 14 years ago to work with Motorola Inc., where he founded the company’s Molecular Technology Lab and Motorola Life Sciences, and held director positions in Motorola’s advanced technologies and nanotechnology research operations. He had 30 patents issued during his time with the company.

Honsberg will serve as a professor, Bowden an associate research professor in electrical engineering, and Maracas a professor in electrical engineering and at the School of Sustainability.

Solar power groups such as the university’s Advanced Photovoltaics Center and Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory will be affiliated with the new lab under the Global Institute of Sustainability. The lab “will bring together other ASU researchers, from materials engineering, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and architecture” to collaborate on projects, says Stephen Goodnick, ASU’s associate vice president of research and economic affairs.

“For four decades, ASU has been a leader in research related to virtually all aspects of solar energy,” says Fink. “To build on these accomplishments and increase the chances for Arizona to attract more international solar companies, we decided ASU needed to bring in new faculty members who have outstanding reputations in the global solar industry.”

(480) 965-8122
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Karen Leland, Karen.Leland@asu.edu
(480) 965-0013
Global Institute of Sustainability