ASU engineers to lead national solar energy technology projects

February 10, 2014

Arizona State University engineers will lead two multi-university/industry research teams in support of a new U.S. Department of Energy program to develop technologies that use the full spectrum of sunlight to produce inexpensive power during both day and night.

The department's Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) recently announced allocation of $30 million in funding for 12 projects selected to conduct research for its Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS) program. Stephen Goodnick and Zachary Holman Download Full Image

Stephen Goodnick will lead the project High-Temperature Topping Cells from LED (Light-Emitting Diode) Materials, which has been allocated $3.9 million.

Goodnick is a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and deputy director of ASU LightWorks, a strategic framework for light-inspired research.

Zachary Holman will lead the project Solar Concentrating Photovoltaic Mirrors, which has been allotted $2.6 million.

Holman is an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

ARPA-E selects energy technology development projects based on their potential to enhance the nation’s economic and energy security. The projects promise to help reduce imports of energy from foreign sources, reduce energy-related emissions – including greenhouse gases – improve energy efficiency in all economic sectors and ensure the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.

Goodnick’s FOCUS project will develop a photovoltaic device that operates effectively at more than 400 degrees Centigrade (more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit) as the key component of a hybrid concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) system that provides overall higher sunlight-into-electricity conversion efficiency than either a stand-alone photovoltaic system or current CSP systems. It is also to provide a lower dollar-per-watt cost.

The material technology used in the photovoltaic device has already demonstrated its reliability and performance in solid-state lighting applications and should be rapidly applicable to solar systems, Goodnick says.

ASU’s research partners on the project are professor Alan Doolittle at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Soitec, one of the world’s leading providers of concentrator photovoltaic systems and a manufacturer of semiconductor materials for electronic and energy industries, and AREVA Solar, a leader in providing concentrated solar power to a global customer base.

The project team includes ASU professors Christiana Honsberg and Dragica Vasileska, and assistant professor Srabanti Chowdhury, faculty members in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, along with Fernando Ponce, a professor in the Department of Physics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Honsberg is director of the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center at ASU, which is supported by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Holman’s FOCUS project will incorporate photovoltaic cells into large reflectors used by solar power plants to generate heat – and subsequently electricity – from the concentrated sunlight.

The process is designed to improve the efficiency of how solar thermal power plants generate electricity, promising a significant increase in the daytime output of energy while also being able to store solar energy for power generation at night.

Holman says the photovoltaic cells he will use will replace the traditional silver mirrored surface of the large parabolic troughs now used in solar power plants such as the Solana plant in Gila Bend, Ariz.

The cells will absorb visible light and efficiently convert it to electricity, while ultraviolet and infrared light, which would be wasted if it were collected in photovoltaic cells, will instead be reflected onto a black tube at the trough focus. A fluid in the tube will carry the generated heat to be either converted to electricity with a steam turbine or stored for later conversion, he explains.

His project team includes researchers at the University of Arizona, along with Mariana Bertoni, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Read more: Energy Secretary Moniz Announces New ARPA-E Solar Projects

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


'NannyVan' is latest artist-in-residence at ASU Art Museum

February 10, 2014

The ASU Art Museum presents artist Marisa Jahn and the NannyVan as the next artist-in-residence at the museum’s International Artist Residency Program. NannyVan, which will be with the museum through Feb. 22, is a bright orange, mobile design studio and sound lab that accelerates the movement for domestic worker rights.

With its pull-out seats, colorful design and acoustic recording booth, the NannyVan convenes domestic workers and employers alike to produce and provide new fair care tools. The project began in 2012, when Jahn created a “public art nanny hotline” to inform the more than 200,000 domestic workers in the State of New York of their rights. Then in 2013, after the birth of her son, Jahn recognized the need for new ways to talk to her mom friends – domestic employers – about fair labor practices, and the NannyVan was born. NannyVan Download Full Image

“Project NannyVan is informed by groups like The National Domestic Worker Alliance, the Massachusetts Domestic Worker Coalition and Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer Association,” explains Jahn. “While advocates have a certain way to discuss the issue with workers, I have found that oftentimes the public needs a different way in to the issue. My goal as an artist is to use craft, humor and playfulness to dismantle apprehensions about a difficult topic.”

During her residency, Jahn will partner with students and faculty from across the university, including the ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the School of Transborder Studies, the School of Social Transformation and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

About the artists

Jahn is the lead artist and co-founder of REV-, a nonprofit studio created in 2009 whose public art projects combine creativity, bold ideas and sound research to address critical issues. They are a self-defined “women and minority-led team of artists, techies, media-makers, low-wage workers, immigrants and teens producing work to impact the issues we face.”

In 2012, REV- created New Day New Standard, a “public art nanny hotline” produced with MIT’s Center for Civic Media that informs the 200,000 domestic workers in New York State about their newfound rights. Users can call using any kind of phone and hear humorous episodes about topics like paying your taxes, overtime wage, trafficking and more. To date, the hotline has received 400 to 1,200 calls a month, media attention from BBC, GOOD magazine and parent blogs, and has been presented at Tribeca Film Institute, The White House and more. Through this, REV- saw how an otherwise sensitive topic was made appealing via the project’s cultural hook.

For more information on REV- and the NannyVan, visit

Related events

All events are free and open to the public.

Artist's Talk with Marisa Jahn
6:30-7:30 p.m., Feb. 11, ASU Art Museum, 10th Street and Mill Avenue, Tempe

ASU Art Museum Season Opening Reception
6:30-7:30 p.m., Feb. 14, ASU Art Museum, Tempe campus 
The NannyVan will be parked outside the museum and open for visitors.

Third Friday Gallery Reception
6-9 p.m., Feb. 20, Combine Studios, 821 North 3rd Street, Phoenix
Presentation of new collaborative work developed with community organizations and ASU students.

About the International Artist Residency Program

Established Feb. 14, 2011, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program brings accomplished professional artists from around the world to develop new work in partnership with the intellectual resources of Arizona State University and the diverse communities within Arizona. Through the program, artists develop work in collaboration with scientists, technologists, social agencies and community organizations that investigate the pressing issues of our time.

The residency program is housed at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix, located at 821 N. 3rd Street. Gallery hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first and third Fridays of every month; additional hours are available by appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, call 480.965.2787. 

Juno Schaser

Event coordinator, Biodesign Institute