ASU takes lead role in accelerating solar energy advances

Engineering faculty will direct national research center supported by National Science Foundation and Department of Energy

Christiana Honsberg

Christiana Honsberg, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, will lead QESST, ASU’s first ERC. “An expanding global economy is bringing an unquenchable demand for more electrical power. It will become vital to progress throughout the 21st century to have the benefits of alternative energy sources that solar power can provide through photovoltaic technologies,” says Honsberg. Photo by: Jessica Slater/ASU

Arizona State University will lead a new national Engineering Research Center (ERC) supported jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DOE) to solve challenges to harnessing solar power in economically viable and sustainable ways.

The ERC for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies – or QESST – will be led by faculty from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

ASU researchers will work with colleagues at the center’s partner institutions – the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Delaware and the University of New Mexico – to provide a staging ground for major innovations in solar energy devices and systems.

The NSF and DOE will jointly provide funding of $18.5 million for the first five years of the center’s operations.

The center’s mission includes accelerating commercialization of solar energy technologies through partnerships with industry and expanding opportunities for education in energy engineering.

Engineering Research Centers sponsored by the NSF focus on areas of research considered vital to national interests in science and engineering innovation, technological advancement, economic expansion and education of future innovation leaders.

Selection as a lead institution for one of these centers reflects exceptional regard for the expertise of a university’s faculty in such important areas of research.

QESST will be directed by Christiana Honsberg, a professor in ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

“An expanding global economy is bringing an unquenchable demand for more electrical power.  It will become vital to progress throughout the 21st century to have the benefits of alternative energy sources that solar power can provide through photovoltaic technologies,” said Honsberg, who also directs ASU’s Solar Power Lab.

Collaboration between ASU and partner universities will be coordinated by Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics at Caltech, who will serve as QESST’s research director.

ASU electrical engineering professor Sayfe Kiaei, former associate dean of research for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, will be QESST’s testbed leader, responsible for developing platforms for evaluating and testing new technologies. Matthew Fraser, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, will be sustainability director.

Beyond enabling collaborations among university research teams, the center will bring universities, major energy companies, photovoltaics industry leaders and entrepreneurs together in partnerships.

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Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
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