Solar energy expert Cyrus Wadia, who joined the Haas School’s professional faculty this fall as co-director of the Cleantech to Market program, was recognized today by MIT’s Technology Review as one of the world’s top innovators under 35.
Wadia, 34, was chosen for the TR35 list for identifying materials that could be unexpectedly useful in solar cells, the Technology Review wrote. Wadia’s goal is to make solar energy affordable and accessible to everyone on the planet, especially to the 1.2 billion people now living without electricity.
The TR35 list is published by Technology Review, a publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Selected from more than 300 nominees by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, the annual TR35 list is an elite group of accomplished young innovators whose work spans medicine, computing, communications, and nanotechnology.
In addition to his Haas appointment, Wadia serves as a guest scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Material Sciences Division. He earned his PhD at UC Berkeley’s Environmental Resources Group.
"I am very honored to receive this award," says Wadia. "This recognition validates our approach to scalable, low-cost photovoltaics and will raise awareness of our research to the wider scientific community. If we are to deliver solar power to 7 billion people, then we need to change the way we think about material resource constraints and design a new paradigm for everything that goes into a finished solar cell."
To reach this goal, Wadia and his colleagues are developing photovoltaic solar cells from naturally occurring materials such as iron sulfide and copper sulfide that are abundantly available. These materials could serve as alternatives to materials that are currently used to make solar cells, which have drawbacks that could limit their widespread implementation.
To make solar energy affordable to everyone — which Wadia believes means delivering electricity as low as 75 cents per watt — he and his colleagues are developing synthetic pathways to create copper sulfide and iron sulfide nanostructures. These are the building blocks for a new generation of low-cost solar cells.
So far, they’ve demonstrated the first working solar cell from copper sulfide nanocrystals and the first all inorganic nanocrystalline solar cell to be processed and deposited on a flexible substrate. They’ve also demonstrated a novel approach to synthesizing high-purity iron pyrite, which in the future may be used in a photovoltaic device.
Wadia and the other TR35 winners for 2009 will be featured in the September/October issue of Technology Review magazine and honored at an event held at MIT Sept. 22-24.