Swanson to receive 2011 Karl Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit
Richard M. Swanson


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11:44 a.m., Feb. 2, 2011----Richard M. Swanson, an innovator in the field of photovoltaics and president emeritus of SunPower Corp., will receive the 2011 Karl Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit during a ceremony to be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, in Gore Recital Hall of the Roselle Center for the Arts on the University of Delaware campus in Newark.

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The medal and a cash award of $50,000, funded by the Karl W. Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit Trust, is given every two years to an individual who has made significant pioneering contributions to the promotion of solar energy as an alternate source of energy through research, development or economic enterprise or to an individual who has made extraordinarily valuable and enduring contributions to the field of solar energy in other ways.

The award is given in honor of Karl Wolfgang Böer, a longtime University of Delaware faculty member, founder of UD's Institute of Energy Conversion and a distinguished scientist in the field of solar cells.

George C. Hadjipanayis, executive director of the Karl W Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit Trust and the Richard B. Murray Professor of Physics and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UD, said, “Dr. Swanson is considered a true scholar in the field of solar cell physics. He is internationally known for his work on photovoltaics where he has received numerous awards and recognition. His invention of point contact cell has revitalized the silicon cell research that led to higher efficiency levels in the whole solar electric industry.”

The recipient of the award is chosen by a panel of commissioners composed of scientists and presidents of several solar energy-related professional societies, a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Tech Program, a past recipient of the award, and a member of the Böer family.

Swanson's contributions

Swanson was the first to identify that metal-semiconductor contact recombination was a major performance limiting factor in silicon solar cells. His invention of the point contact solar cell in 1979 reduced the impact of this mechanism.

In 1985, Swanson's group developed silicon concentrator solar cells that continue to hold the efficiency record of 27 percent today. Research also led to development of new methods of studying the impact of large doping densities in semiconductors, and associated physical theories, that paved the way for optimized doping profiles in solar cells.

Swanson's group also was a leader in developing semiconductor processing techniques that allowed a thousand-fold increase in minority carrier lifetime. This enabled a large increase in cell performance. His group developed the analytic tools for contact-less measurement of minority carrier lifetime that have become the industry standard.

Swanson founded of SunPower Corp. in 1989 with the goal of commercializing large-scale photovoltaic power plants based on high efficiency silicon solar cells. Funding was secured from venture capitalists, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

SunPower solar cells powered the Honda Dream to victory in the 1993 World Solar Challenge, a race for solar powered cars across Australia. And in 2001, the company's solar cells powered the NASA Helios solar powered airplane to a record altitude of 96,500 feet, the highest any aircraft has flown in sustained level flight.

SunPower has been a leader in the development of low-cost high-performance cells and in 2002 Cypress Semiconductor invested in SunPower and contributed state of the art semiconductor manufacturing know-how to help build a manufacturing plant for the highest performance cells commercially available.

SunPower went public on the NASDAQ in 2005, and today manufactures hundreds of megawatts per year of high efficiency solar cells. These cells are opening new markets for building integrated PV, roof mounted PV, large PV power plants.

Previous recipients

The first Karl W Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit Award was presented in 1993 to former President Jimmy Carter, who was cited as an individual who spurred development and focused world attention on solar energy.

Other recipients of the Böer medal include:

1995, David E. Carlson, chief scientist, BP Solar;

1997, Adolf Goetzberger, founder of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems;

1999, Stanford R. Ovshinsky, a pioneer in the science of amorphous semiconductors resulting in the development of low-cost, thin film silicon solar cells;

2001, Allen M. Barnett, a pioneer in high-performance, thin-crystalline silicon solar cells and currently professor in UD's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering;

2003, Martin A. Green, Inaugural Scientia Professor at the Centre for Photovoltaic Engineering in Sydney, Australia, and foundation director for the Centre for Third Generation University of New South Wales in Sydney;

2005, Yoshihiro Hamakawa, adviser professor to the chancellor at Ritsumeikan University in Shiga, Japan and a prominent scholar in the field of solar photovoltaic energy;

2007, Lawrence L. Kazmerski, executive director, Science and Technology Partnerships, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a pioneer and leader in the field of solar electricity; and

2009, Hermann Scheer, a member of German Parliament, president of EUROSOLAR and chairperson of the World Council for Renewable Energy, who has made an outstanding contribution to the worldwide understanding of the necessity to replace fossil and nuclear resources by renewable energies, especially solar energy.