BBC News - Swiss Solar Innovator Wins Millennium Technology Prize

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Text of BBC News - Swiss Solar Innovator Wins Millennium Technology Prize

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    Gratzel cells mimic natural plant photosynthesis

    The inv entor of a low-cost solar cell that could be used to build electricitygenerating windows has been awarded this year's Millennium TechnologyPrize.

    Professor Michael Gratzel of the Lausanne Federal Technology Institutereceived the 800,000 (660,000) prize at a ceremony in Helsinki.

    Professor Gratzel's innovation mimics the way plants turn l ight into energy.

    Two British inventors also won prizes of 150,000 (124,000) each.

    The three shortl isted entries were all vying for the world's biggest technologyprize, which is awarded every other year by Finland's Technology Academy.

    Big honourProfessor Gratzel expressed his excitement to BBC News: "It was a wonderfulexperience to win the grand prix, and of course a tremendous honour".

    "The constraint of solar energy has traditionally been its price. 'Gratzel cells'provide a more affordable way of harnessing solar energy," said Dr AinomaijaHaarla, President of Technology Academy Finland.

    "Gratzel's innovation is l ikely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scalesolutions for renewable energy."

    You could think that the glass of all high-rises in New York would be electricitygenerating panels

    Professor Michael Gratzel Millennium Technology Prize winner

    Swiss solar innovator winsMillennium Technology prize16:44 GMT, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 17:44 UK

    A DV E RT I S E M E NT

  • Explaining his inspiration, he said: "I was always intrigued by the way plantscapture sunlight and turn it into fuels l ike sugar.

    "Natural photosynthesis was the inspiration, and our solar cell is the only onethat mimics the natural photosynthetic process."

    Gratzel cells rely on nanotechnology to produce power from sunlight. "We areusing nanocrystal fi lms in which the particles are so small, they don't scatterlight," said Professor Gratzel.

    "You can imagine using those cells as electricity producing windows.

    "What's very exciting is that you collect l ight from all sides, so can captureelectricity from the inside as well as the outside.

    "You could think that the glass of all high-rises in New York would be electricitygenerating panels," he said.

    Gratzel cells have recently been launched in consumer products, including asbattery charging backpacks, and Professor Gratzel said that the 800,000 prizewould benefit his research and go back into science.

    The shortlistBoth the other shortl isted nominations for the prize were British inventors, eachof whom won 150,000.

    Professor Sir Richard Friend of the University of Cambridge invented organicLight Emitting Diodes, which Finland's Technology Academy said was "acrucial milestone in plastic electronics".

    "Electronic paper, cheap organic solar cells and il luminating wall paper areexamples of the revolutionary future products his work has made possible," itsaid.

    And Professor Stephen Furber of Manchester University is the principaldesigner of the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, an innovation found ingadgets ranging from Apple's iPhone to Microsoft's Zune. The Academy said it"revolutionised mobile electronics".

    It said: "The ingeniously designed processor enabled the development ofcheap, powerful handheld, battery-operated devices".

    Previous winners of the prize have included Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who iswidely credited as having invented the web, and Professor Shuji Nakamura,who invented blue and white Light Emitting Diodes.

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