Michael Grätzel is one of the most renowned material scientists worldwide, who recently received the Millenium Technology Award. He is a pioneer in the area of energy and electron transfer reactions and their application on solar energy, optoelectronics, and in lithium-ion batteries. Grätzel has published more than 1300 papers, two books and holds over 50 patents. The Scientifc American ranks him among the top 50 scientists worldwide. He belongs to the top 3 most cited chemists (over 190,000 times, h-index 202!) and his name appears regularly when Nobel prizes are discussed.
Grätzel has developed a new type of photovoltaic cell, known as ‘Grätzel cell’, which is based on dyes and relies on the process of photosynthesis. Playing an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy they have been moved to production by industry on the megawatt scale as light-weight flexible cells for powering portable electronic devices and as electricity producing glass panels for application in building integrated photovoltaics. In addition to photovoltaics, the concept of Grätzel cell can also be applied in batteries and hydrogen production, all important components of future energy needs.
Besides the mentioned applications, the dye sensitized solar cells have engendered perovskite solar cells that have recently revolutionized the whole field of photovoltaics reaching over 22% efficiency only a few years after their inception. This exceeds the performance of polycrystalline silicon solar cells. With never stopping improvement professor Grätzel continues to lead the field of the future solar energy.
Grätzel has received numerous awards including the Millennium 2000 European Innovation Prize, Faraday Medal of the British Royal Society, the Dutch Havinga Award, two McKinsey Venture awards, the Harvey Prize of Technion for pioneered research on energy and electron transfer reactions in mesoscopic-materials and their optoelectronic applications. His most recent awards include Marcel Benoist Prize & Albert Einstein World Award of Science.
How you became interested in the sciences?
I was driven by natural curiosity. I got good grades in science, and wanted to learn more about life in general, the laws of nature, the composition of materials and so on. I became infatuated with light, and the interaction between light and matter, and was very motivated to work in that area. I did my PhD in radiation chemistry, a postdoc in laser photolysis and then I worked on energy conversion, focusing on how to mimic natural photosynthesis.
Is there anything you wish to add about the future of nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology will play a pivotal role for energy generation and storage and will thrive in the future as mankind will rely on nanocrystalline systems to cover its needs in these vital fields.