Solar material wins energy prize

A company founded by Stanford University students Ajay Virkar and Melbs LeMieux has been proclaimed the winner of this year’s MIT Clean Energy Prize and awarded $200,000 (£134,000) in prize money.

The company – C3Nano – has developed a transparent electrode material that it claims will make photovoltaic solar panels cheaper and more efficient. Although the material has many potential applications, including touch-screen electronic devices, the company believes the solar industry is the most attractive initial market.

The team of PhD chemical-engineering students that developed the carbon-nanotube (CNT)-based transparent electrode say that it will effectively increase the efficiency of thin-film photovoltaic solar panels by allowing up to 12 per cent more sunlight to penetrate the panels.

’Our innovation not only has the potential to increase the efficiency of solar panels, it can be used in the manufacture of television, computer and cell-phone touch screens and electronic displays to increase performance and lower cost,’ said Melburne C LeMieux, C3Nano founder and chief science officer. ’Winning this competition literally enables us to take the next step towards moving this important technology out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.’

C3Nano was selected – from over 60 other teams from 35 universities – by prominent judges for their technology’s potential impact to enhance existing photovoltaic systems. With production doubling every two years, photovoltaics have become the world’s fastest-growing energy technology.