Honoring Future Energy Technologies

Honoring Future Energy Technologies

There are many prestigious prizes which institutions and academics award to honor people for their exceptional efforts or accomplishments that benefit science, academia or even mankind. And many of them are not well known yet.

One such award is the Millennium Technology Prize. In cooperation with the Finnish state and the domestic industry, the Technology Academy Finland awards this prize every two years for technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life. Previous laureates include Tim Berners-Lee for the invention of the World Wide Web (2004), Shuji Nakamura for his inventions of blue, green and white LEDs and blue laser diodes (2006) and Robert Langer for the discovery and development of biomaterials and pharmaceuticals, which are also used for the fight against cancer (2008).

This year, the nominees included Sir Richard Friend for contributions in the area of plastic electronics and Stephen Furber for huge accomplishments in the design of the so called ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor which enables the development of cheap and powerful battery-operated devices. The third nominee, who was ultimately named award winner this year, was my dear friend Michael Grätzel. He won the prize for his innovation of the third generation of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC). When discussing Gratzel’s dye-sensitized solar cells, award judges said “the excellent price/performance ratio of these novel devices gives them major potential as a significant contributor to the diverse portfolio of future energy technologies.”

I was very happy to give the laudation for Michael Grätzel and to dignify his solar cells that are imitating the natural photosynthesis. I am also happy to emphasize again the role PV solar electricity will play in the next decade's electricity supply. There is no doubt, Grätzel’s dye-sensitized solar cells will play an important part – especially for many consumer products. But in order to become a serious and mainstream energy provider we need all technologies – crystalline silicon, thin film and the new concepts like DSC or organic cells – not only to drive down costs but also to meet the variety of different consumer needs.

An award ceremony of the Millennium Technology Prize in Helsinki (Finland) should remind all of us to never stop innovation and invention. To continue being explorative is key for companies like Applied Materials. Turning innovations into beneficial applications for mankind is a huge challenge and massive responsibility but it’s also the service to keep the world turning in a sustainable way.

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