Nominees in the New Ways of Energy Application Nomination
Scientists from the USA, Australia, Denmark and Greece, who worked at different times on the creation of new energy systems, were shortlisted for this year’s Global Energy Prize in the New Ways of Energy Application nomination.
Among them was Eli Yablonovitch, scientist from the US. He is one of the most prominent specialists in such fields as semiconductor lasers, photonic crystals and solar cells. Yablonovitch was born in Austria in 1946, but was educated at McGill University in Montreal (Canada). Later in 1972, he received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University.
Yablonovitch was employed with Bell Telephone Laboratories, and occupied the position of professor of applied physics at Harvard; in 1979 he joined Exxon, where he was engaged in research on photovoltaic solar energy. Then he became head of solid state physics department at Bell Communications Research. In 1992, he became a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, and in 2007 he began his employment with the University of California, Berkeley.
Yablonovitch is the winner of such prestigious awards as the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering, the Edison Medal, the Oliver Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society, the Isaac Newton Medal and the British Institute of Physics. He also received the Israel Harvey Prize.
Among Yablonovitch’s most prominent achievements is solar cells efficiency boost. According to the findings of his team, under ideal conditions, the absolute limit for electricity generation from solar heating of a conventional panel could reach 33.5%. However, modern solar panels generate 26% of usable energy at maximum. Yablonovitch’s team set a goal to increase this level and bring it to the absolute limit as much as possible.
Solar cells produce electricity when photons heat up the semiconducting material inside the battery. Photon energy knocks free electrons out of this material, allowing them to flow freely. However, the process of knocking out free electrons can also generate new photons. This process is called luminescence. The idea behind the new solar cell is to provide for the easiest way for the new photons to escape from the battery. The logic behind this solution is that the output of the photons yields the voltage required to generate electricity. As a result, the solar panels designed by Yablonovitch’s team were able to yield 29% useful energy, which is an absolute record as of today. This will facilitate future design of compact batteries that would fit both multi-storey buildings and small drones. At the moment, the scientist’s company Alta Devices Inc. is engaged in the production of solar panels based on gallium arsenide (GaAs) and having the shape of thin-film solar cells. This material is actively used for solar panels on man-made space satellites and space stations.
Yablonovitch also worked on photonic crystals. Their refractive index can change, which makes it possible to obtain allowed and forbidden gaps for the photon energy. If a photon with an energy corresponding to the forbidden zone falls on such a crystal, it won’t be able to propagate in the photonic crystal and is reflected back, and vice versa. That is, the photonic crystal acts as an optical filter. Our going online almost every time requires such photonic crystals to be engaged.
Based on this discovery, Yablonovich’s company Luxtera has developed intercom technologies in major data centers that are now used by billions of users around the world. This company has recently been bought by Cisco Systems, one of the global technological leaders.
Yablonovitch also dealt with development of technologies based on semiconductor lasers. In such solid-state lasers, radiation is provided by the atoms that make up the crystal lattice; therefore they are compact, inertial, highly efficient and have simple design. The concept of efficiency developed by the scientist is used in most semiconductor lasers around the world, including DVD players, laser pointers, etc.
One of his companies also manufactures improved antennas for mobile phones. The sales of these antennas have already reached several billions.
Unlike Yablonovitch, who was involved in the development of new energy technologies and materials, another contender for the Global Energy Prize, Nikolaos Hatziargyriou, conducted research in the field of autonomous energy systems, energy transmission and distribution, and the economic problems of electricity production. Thomson Reuters has three times included the scientist in the 1% of the most cited researchers in the world.
Hatziargyriou was born in 1953 in Athens, graduated from the Athens National Technical University, and later became its professor and director. Today, Hatziargyriou is the Chief Executive Officer of the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network (DEDDIE) and the Deputy Head of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) of Greece. He is a member of the Energy Committee of the Athens Academy of Science.
The scientist has participated in more than 60 research projects in the electric power industry sponsored by the European Commission and private investors.
He is an honorary member of the leading international community for the expertise of all aspects of the functioning of CIGRE electrical power systems, the laureate of such awards as the Energy Globe Award, the IEEE PES Technical Committee Working Group Recognition Award, and the CIGRE Technical Council Award. He is the author of over 350 publications in international journals and conference proceedings.
Hatziargyriou was one of the first in the world to turn to the concept of the so-called microgrids and smart grids. They are local autonomous power systems with their own sources of generation, which can meet the consumers’ needs both at minimum and peak loads. Such systems can use several energy sources, including renewable ones, aptly responding to consumption fluctuations and adapting to them. They can operate at the level of several houses and gradually expand, answering to the increase in the number of consumers. In practice, such systems are essential for remote areas and islands that do not have the ability to connect to centralised systems.
For such microgrids, Hatziargyriou has developed modeling and analysis tools, refined and created new intelligent management methods.
He developed original methods of distributed control based on the “Plug and Play” principle.
Professor also dealt with the innovative implementation of artificial intelligence in power systems, the application of the “Ant Colony” algorithm in the power industry, and developed tools for assessing power systems security. His developments have made it possible to provide a stable supply of electricity to the islands which receive energy from wind and sun. In such looped systems, buildings can receive electricity even during interruptions due to the optimal redistribution of power reserves.
Hatziargyriou employed artificial intelligence technologies for the design of his microgrids. His work involves the application of network diagrams, neural networks and fuzzy clusters to assess the security of energy systems such as the Hellenic Interconnected System.
The scientist’s most significant contribution is the development of tools for dynamic power system security assessment (DSA). This made it possible to enhance and adjust the power supply at the right time, that is, to ensure the stable operation of the island power systems in the event of individual disturbances, such as interruptions in the operation of gas or diesel units, a shutdown of a wind farm or large fluctuations in wind energy.
Hatziargyriou cannot be called pure theoretician. He has implemented a number of pilot microgrids, in particular, on the small Greek island of Kythnos with a population of 1.45 thousand people. The Kythnos power grid is the first fully solar and battery powered microgrid in Europe with an intelligent system. The Smart Control system monitors not only over the power consumption of the whole house, but also over various groups of equipment (say, water pump, air conditioner, or refrigerator). This makes it possible to leave critical devices functioning even in the event of power shortages.
Another Global Energy Prize nominee, PhD Xinghuo Yu from Australia, is researching smart grids and the novel ways to use energy in cyber-physical environments.
Xinghuo Yu was born in China in 1960, graduated from the University of Science and Technology in China, and received his Ph.D. from the Southeastern University of China. He started his academic career in Australia in 1989, at the University of Adelaide. He is currently Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology, Melbourne.
Clarivate Analytics has twice named him a highly cited researcher in the engineering category. Among his awards are the Australian Outstanding Contribution to Artificial Intelligence Award, the Eugene Mittelman Achievement Award, the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society’s Best Theoretical Work Award, and the Chang Jiang-Zhang Award. He is the author of over 500 publications in scientific journals, books and conferences. His research into the interaction of smart grids and cyber-physical systems is among the 50 most downloaded articles in the world’s most prestigious electrical and electrical engineering journal, Proceedings of the IEEE.
The cyber-physical environment is an intricate system of computational and physical elements constantly receiving data from the environment and using it to further improve control processes. With the help of such a system, real-time data on energy consumption can be collected; it is possible to record even minor changes in them and to predict possible deviations, including critical ones, ultimately achieving maximum energy efficiency.
Implementing this concept, Xinghuo Yu worked with the city of Victoria, Australia to design a technology to massively prevent fires on wooden power transmission towers.
The Australian authorities have already started to introduce new rules for monitoring the power systems safety, based, among other things, on the proposals of the scientist’s research team. These rules are especially important against the background of the live interest towards renewable energy.
Another Australian nominated for the Global Energy Prize, Andrew Bruce Holmes, received worldwide recognition for his groundbreaking research on organic electronic materials and optoelectronic polymers.
He was born in 1943 in Melbourne. He graduated from the University of Melbourne, after which engaged in scientific research at the University of London and at Cambridge. In his postdoctoral studies, the scientist worked on the complete synthesis of vitamin B12. Holmes is a Ph.D., and his doctoral work has been supported by the global oil giant Shell; he is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Melbourne.
Holmes’ prestigious titles and awards include the Royal Society Medal, the Descartes Prize, and the John Goodenough Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is the holder of the Order of Australia and Fellow of the Royal Society. For 5 years, he headed the Australian Academy of Science.
The chemical team headed by Holmes has found that some organic polymers are capable of emitting light when put to electric current. Based on this discovery, the technologies of light-emitting polymers appeared that are now actively used in industry. Further developments have led to the use of these organic electronic materials in transistors and solar cells.
A consortium headed by Holmes and including leading universities and global companies has dealt with the design and supply of flexible printed solar panels that provide an efficient and affordable source of renewable energy.
The Australian scientist, like the other nominees, is a successful practitioner. He has co-founded Cambridge Display Technology that deals with the commercial use of organic polymers in electronics. The company was one of the first to appear in the famous Cambridge technology hub, which was dubbed “The Silicon Fen” with subtle English humour. The company is now part of the Japanese Sumitomo Chemical.
The Global Energy Prize nominee Henrik Lund from Denmark focuses on the analysis of power systems, their design methods, the economic and environmental consequences of their implementation and public regulation. He works on technologies of energy conservation, cogeneration and renewable power sources.
The scientist was born in 1960 in Aalborg, Denmark. He is a Professor at Aalborg University, where he had studied engineering, and a doctor of sciences. Lund is editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Energy, one of the top fifteen energy journals in the world.
He is one of the most cited researchers in his field and has been officially recognised by Thompson Reuters. One of his scientific works was also recognised as the best in the field of energy by the ENERGEX organisation. At the same time, Lund is the Lecturer of the Year at Aalborg University. He has authored over 400 books and articles, including The Renewable Energy Systems book.
The scientist has created the EnergyPLAN software for power systems analysis, which is now used worldwide. The EnergyPLAN model is available in many countries: it is free and user-friendly. EnergyPLAN can be used to simulate the operation of national energy systems on an hourly basis, including electricity, heating, cooling, industry and transportation; researchers and consultants around the world are using it effectively. The model has been mentioned in hundreds of scientific publications and reports.
Lund has paid special attention to renewable energy sources, studying the possibilities of mitigating the effects of global warming, the use of alternative energy in transport, and the use of wind energy. With the EnergyPLAN model it is also possible to design green energy models from scratch.