Decision Theater enters 3rd era of decision-making support with new leadership

May 17, 2023

During what many scientists and scholars have described as the most decisive decade of our time for climate change and social justice outcomes, the decisions we make today are especially critical in shaping our future.

Since its inception in 2005, Decision Theater has been used by policymakers, community stakeholders, businesses and researchers to visualize and model complex data and forecast the impacts of potential actions to assist these decisions. Now, Decision Theater is gearing up to evolve their capabilities to meet the needs of this new era of decision-making around global challenges with a focus on model co-production through multi-stakeholder collaboration.    A group of people gather around a series of screens Decision Theater is now formally a part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and will be led by Manfred Laubichler, director of the School of Complex Adaptive Systems. Download Full Image

Under new leadership, Decision Theater is now formally a part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and will be led by Manfred Laubichler, director of the School of Complex Adaptive Systems. Previous director Jon Miller is transitioning to a new role with ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise.

This evolution of Decision Theater marks its third iteration and includes an updated mission statement: to transform decision-making for local and global challenges through the co-creation of data-based tools, methods and experiences that engineer curiosity, explore possible futures and empower societies to address complex issues.

“Thanks to Jon’s leadership through Decision Theater’s last phase, we have an organization at hand that can serve several important elements of ASU’s mission,” Laubichler said. “Through increased collaboration within ASU and with national and international partners, we plan to create a more agile, modular and creative framework for Decision Theater. This will allow us to better examine major local and global challenges ASU is addressing that have a decision-making component.” 

As a decision support resource, Decision Theater integrates data sets across multiple complex systems and perspectives, and it uses advanced computational forecasting to model them in ways that empower the exploration of possible futures. They recently demonstrated this capability at the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health during this year’s Earth Day celebration, providing audience members the opportunity to explore a model about where to locate new solar power plants across Arizona. 

In this interactive exercise, audience members were able to vote among multiple potential sites, see the top two locations run through the model and collectively weigh the pros and cons of each location. As with most challenges facing our society, there was no perfect option — but that was the point.  

Choices around complex issues involve both intended and unintended consequences, which require awareness and deliberation. Through the demonstration, audience members experienced firsthand how tools created by Decision Theater make these impacts and trade-offs visible to empower better decision-making and provide awareness for anticipated cons to be mitigated. 

“When Decision Theater launched in 2005, it was a cutting-edge tool to connect researchers and policymakers to see the effects of potential strategies,” said Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost for Global Futures and acting dean of the College of Global Futures. “As part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, we will build on Decision Theater’s exceptional history and further its mission to support science-informed policy through increased accessibility and augmented intelligence that can produce results anywhere in real time.”

As Decision Theater evolves under new leadership, all existing projects will continue to completion, even as others are added to their portfolio. Going forward, they will continue to provide decision support tools at a larger scale and will begin engaging more in the academic space offered at ASU to publish research and contribute to decision science.

Katelyn Reinhart

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

ASU researchers TEAMUP to advance solar capabilities

Department of Energy supports academic, industry consortium to advance perovskite technology

May 17, 2023

As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing problem worldwide, the race to develop sustainable power-generation technology is ever more crucial. A new consortium of academic and industry partners, Tandems for Efficient and Advanced Modules using Ultrastable Perovskites, or TEAMUP, looks to help mitigate climate change by making a new generation of solar technology commercially viable.

The three-year TEAMUP collaboration, which is planned to start in fall 2023, is supported by $9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. TEAMUP seeks to maximize the performance and reliability of tandem solar panels for consumer use. Two people wearing white lab coats and gear while working in a lab. Researchers in Arizona State University’s MacroTechnology Works facility examine a solar cell. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

Tandem refers to solar panels that are made from a combination of two or more cells optimized to absorb different sections of the electromagnetic spectrum, or simply put, colors of light.

Halide perovskites are a family of materials that have shown tremendous potential for high performance and low production costs in solar cells. The term “perovskite” comes from the name for the materials’ crystal structure. Perovskites and silicon absorb different colors of sunlight, resulting in a greater combined efficiency than panels made from either material alone.

Ultimately, the consortium hopes to use this emerging technology to put the U.S. at the forefront of solar technology manufacturing. The project aligns with Arizona’s New Economy Initiative, which is positioning the state as a hub for advanced jobs in engineering, technology and advanced manufacturing.

The consortium’s efforts also directly relate to the goals of ASU’s Advanced Materials, Processes, and Energy Devices, or AMPED, Science and Technology Center (STC), which has photovoltaic, or solar, technology as one of its primary research thrusts.

An academic collaboration for solar innovation

Academic and government partners in the consortium include the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University; the University of Colorado Boulder; the University of California, Merced; Northwestern University; and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Portrait of Nick Rolston

Assistant Professor Nick Rolston

ASU’s involvement includes research groups run by Assistant Professor Nick Rolston and Associate Professors Mariana Bertoni and Zachary Holman, all electrical engineering faculty members in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Fulton Schools.

Work at the University of Colorado Boulder, which leads the academic research efforts of the partnership, is run by Michael McGehee, a professor and James and Catherine Patten Chair in Chemical Engineering. Perovskite materials for solar panels are McGehee’s area of expertise.

“Mike McGehee was almost like a co-advisor to me when I was doing my doctoral degree at Stanford,” Rolston said. “I worked with several of his students in his lab quite frequently.”

Rolston estimates that although the University of Colorado leads the consortium’s academic investigations, ASU will significantly contribute to the research. Each ASU research group will play a different and complementary role: Rolston’s group will examine mechanical macro-level damage limits of the tandem silicon and perovskite panels; Bertoni’s group will focus on conducting X-ray characterization of micro-level structural strains during aging; and Holman’s group will examine how to use the panels’ optoelectronic properties to generate as much electricity as possible.

Delivering entrepreneurial impact

Beyond Silicon, which specializes in tandem solar panel technology and was founded by Holman and ASU electrical engineering Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan Yu, is involved in the industry efforts to make the technology viable for commercial and consumer use. Swift Solar and Tandem PV, both tandem solar technology companies based in the San Francisco Bay area and started by McGehee’s former students, round out the industry consortium members.

Under Holman’s guidance while a graduate student at ASU, Yu worked with McGehee to develop a tandem solar panel that set a power generation efficiency record. Now, as CEO of Beyond Silicon, Yu and the other industry collaborators will focus on making tandem solar technology commercially viable by scaling it up from the small sizes used in labs.

“The U.S. has lost its photovoltaic manufacturing prominence to countries in Asia,” Yu said. “Perovskite and silicon tandem technology is the next opportunity to return the U.S. to a leading position of photovoltaic manufacturing. This technology will make solar technology more affordable to decarbonize the grid and be a key energy generation technology for a sustainable future.”

The AMPED STC aids Yu through its Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program, which provides entrepreneurship funding to private sector projects that stimulate research and development in Arizona.

Yu believes that the TEAMUP public-private partnership is a great boost to help industry commercialize tandem solar technology.

“As scientific challenges still remain to make tandem panels commercially viable, a consortium of industry partners plus academic institutions is the best way to achieve that goal,” he said.

Developing solar solutions 

The ASU research groups will also provide opportunities to students from the undergraduate to doctoral levels to conduct hands-on research. Rolston said students in his group will take part in everything from producing panels to conducting durability testing and analysis.

“The techniques that my research group use basically involve breaking things apart,” Rolston said. “We use tensile testers that can rip apart the materials to understand how much energy that takes and what the weak point is.”

His group is looking to add more students to aid in the work, especially those in undergraduate and master’s degree programs. The work can fulfill project requirements for the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and Master’s Opportunity for Research in Engineering programs, theses for ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, master’s degree programs and more.

Bertoni expects that the project’s findings will help to derisk this new technology, attracting businesses to invest in Arizona.

“I think that if we solve some of the reliability issues and show a path to manufacturability and long-term performance, these perovskite technologies will seed a lot of new ideas and businesses,” she said.

Rolston hopes those new businesses could find a home in Arizona, explaining that microelectronics manufacturing infrastructure is similar to that used for solar technology.

“Arizona has such strengths in semiconductors from companies like TSMC and Intel, along with expertise from the workforce,” he said. “I think Arizona would be the perfect place to produce solar panels, which would bring a lot of jobs to the state.”

Students interested in conducting research with Rolston’s group can contact him at

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering