Michael Grätzel, one of the world’s most famous scientists and innovators in the field of solar power, has received the best prize any scientist could get in a lifetime, besides the Nobel: The Millennium Technology Prize, weighing 800,000 Euros.
The most versatile and promising dye-sensitized solar cells bear his name today, after Grätzel, a respected professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, dedicated almost 30 years of his life studying them. The prize has been given to him yesterday, in Helsinki.
Grätzel’s organic solar cells are inspired by living plants and by their photosynthetic processes. Despite the fact that current dye-sensitized solar cells capture less energy than the silicon one do, they are the most studied and worked upon. Grätzel cells are so simple that anyone can “cook” them into their kitchen at will. Made of titanium dioxide and an organic paint, with a conductive glass substrate, the most efficient of them can turn almost 8 percent of the light into electricity (versus 41.1 percent – the most recent silicon-based cells, aided by solar concentrator technology).
Still, at their price and ease of manufacturing, Grätzel cells have gained momentum and the trust of leading science institutions, which is confirmed by the prize awarded just yesterday.
Dye-sensitized solar cells are not the only thing Michael Grätzel has put his footprint on. He has also contributed to improving lithium ion batteries and made the solar energy storage technology become more efficient by using hydrogen extraction.
The Millennium Technology Prize is given by the Technology Academy Finland and awards innovations that, applied in day-to-day life, directly improve it and contribute to the well-being of all.