ASU professor’s ‘solar exposure’

Event draws a VIP crowd to an ASU engineer and his new technology

March 16, 2016

Taking part in a high-visibility event near the nation’s capital means you need to be on your toes. Just ask Zak Holman, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He was displaying a technology at the recent ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit near Washington, D.C., when Al Gore, the former vice president, walked up and asked him about the PVMirror Holman had invented.

“I was totally impressed with Al Gore’s technical knowledge,” Holman said of the encounter. “I made it about 15 seconds into my usual spiel before he interrupted me with a string of questions about the technology and its marketability.” ASU assistant professor Zak Holman explains his PVMirror invention to former Vice President Al Gore at the recent ARPA-E summit. Download Full Image

“He wanted to know if there was a thin film in PVMirrors that does the spectrum splitting (answer is yes), what it is made from (polymers), what fraction of the electricity is dispatchable (50 percent), what the projected efficiency and cost increases are compared to conventional concentrating solar thermal power systems (40 percent and 10 percent, respectively), and how long it would take to realize those projected values — all good questions,” Holman said.

Holman’s PVMirrors were part of a LightWorks display put on by Arizona State University for the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) event. At the summit, 14 ASU professors, staff and students took part in the three-day event. They had the chance to show off their work to several people, including dignitaries.

Other energy technologies included in the ASU/LightWorks booth were Indium-Gallium-Nitride thermionic topping solar cells that provide energy on demand at low cost; an electrochemical CO2 capture-and-release device; a carbon capture device; and diamond power transistors enabled by phosphorous-doped diamond.

But Holman’s PVMirrors stole the show.

“Zak was certainly a rock star at the summit this year, his booth (part of the larger ASU LightWorks booth) was a featured booth for the VIP tours organized by ARPA-E,” said Steve Goodnick, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering and also an exhibitor at the event. “They also showed his project in a video between sessions at the plenary.”

Jim Yong Kim, head of the World Bank

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, tells ASU engineer Zak Holman that there will be a place in the world for his solar technology. Photo courtesy of Leon Meng

Holman explained his invention’s basic operation.

“PVMirrors are a technology intended to lower the cost and increase the value of solar energy,” Holman said. “Our approach to lowering the cost is to maximize the efficiency with which sunlight is converted to electricity. PVMirrors do this by splitting the solar spectrum, illuminating photovoltaic cells with only the colors of light that the cells ‘like’ (near-infrared), and using the rest of the colors (visible and infrared light) to generate heat, which can be converted to electricity at a later time using a steam turbine. This increases the overall efficiency of the system, and it enables solar energy at night.”

He added that he was inspired by another visitor to his booth.

“Jim Yong Kim (head of the World Bank) was very interested and supportive of the technology, and made a point to let me know that the world needed to keep pushing clean-energy technologies, and that there would be money to support them,” Holman said.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU Goldwater Conference to bring renowned scholars for national politics discussion

March 16, 2016

As the 2016 presidential election approaches in November, more than three dozen academic scholars in political science will gather to examine the data behind political campaigns, voter turnout and voting trends.

The two-day Goldwater Conference, “Campaigns, Elections and Representation,” will take place on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Friday and Saturday, April 1-2. Demo version of lever style voting machine on display at the National Museum of American History Download Full Image

Noted political scientist and professor Morris P. Fiorina, the Goldwater Chair and Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, will kick off the conference with opening remarks on American politics and the study of representation and elections.

Fiorina’s recent research examines elections and public opinion with a focus on the quality of representation. He has published numerous articles and written or edited multiple books on national politics, including “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America,” “Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics” and, most recently, “Can We Talk: The Rise of Rude, Nasty, Stubborn Politics.”

“Professor Fiorina’s work has spanned over 40 years and has focused on many of the most crucial topics in American politics such as what drives voters to the polls, how voters make decisions, how representatives vote in Congress and the role of political parties in the American political system,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Fiorina has been elected to several prestigious academic societies, including the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scholarship is required reading for all graduate students and will complement the content discussed during the ASU Goldwater Conference, Kenney said.  

Conference presenters will cover the electoral landscape, the underrepresentation of women, the impacts on primary electorates, the aggregate effects of large-scale campaigns and other related topics of interest.

Featured presenters include Lynn Vavreck, Chris Tausanovitch and Kathleen Bawn from the University of California, Los Angeles; John Sides from George Washington University; Sarah Fulton from Texas A&M University at College Station; Chris Warshaw from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ryan Enos from Harvard; and Anthony Fowler from the University of Chicago.

John. H. Aldrich, the Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of political science at Duke University, will offer closing remarks. 

“We’re proud to serve as an incubator for the cultivation of new knowledge and advancements in the field of American politics,” said Kenney. “This conference is a collection of young and established scholars who are employing interesting theories and state-of-the-art empirical methodologies to locate solutions to a number of puzzles about citizens’ beliefs and behaviors during campaigns and elections.”

Amanda Stoneman

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