Former Labor Secretary to address economic issues

March 13, 2009

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich will deliver this year’s John P. Frank Memorial Lecture titled “Will our Children Live as Well?” at 7 p.m. March 19 in the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on ASU’s Tempe campus. The event is presented by Arizona State University’s School of Justice and Social Inquiry.

“In these times of economic uncertainty, we are delighted to offer this opportunity to hear the thoughts of a great economist who brings so much experience in dealing with economic problems at a national and global level,” says Marjorie Zatz, director of the school.

Reich, who is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, “is known for his ability to think through complex issues and identify innovative solutions that make sense for our time,” according to Zatz. Reich has served three U.S. administrations and was secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Recently, he has been an economic advisor to President Barack Obama.

As labor secretary, Reich oversaw the implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, led a national fight against sweatshops in the United States, secured workers’ pensions, led a successful effort to raise the minimum wage, and launched job-training programs and training centers. Under his leadership, the Labor Department earned more than 30 awards for innovation.

The endowed lecture series, with support from the Lewis and Roca law firm, honors the memory of John P. Frank, a Maricopa County attorney who died in 2002. Frank began his career at Lewis and Roca in 1954.

“It is fitting that Robert Reich delivers the 10th John P. Frank Memorial Lecture, as his actions and counsel follow in the tradition of Frank; always attentive to the social justice implications of policies and practices,” says Zatz. “Economic justice and social innovation will be one of several strategic initiatives pursued by the faculty in our new, transdisciplinary school.” The School of Justice and Social Inquiry is transitioning along with other academic units into the new School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“Reich’s work is central to debates in this area, and we are excited by this opportunity to learn from Reich and discuss our ideas with him,” Zatz says.

Reich received the prestigious Vaclav Havel Vision Foundation Prize, from the former president of the Czech Republic, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought in 2003.

In 2008, Time named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet officials of the century. His commentary is heard weekly on American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” He is a frequent op-ed contributor of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Reich is the co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. He received a juris doctorate from Yale University; a master’s degree from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.

His recent book, “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life,” won the Bruno Kreisky Prize for the Political Book in 2008.

“Bob is a rare individual who makes complicated theory accessible to everyone. His books and writings help us understand the work lives of Americans, how our lives are affected by economic change, and the initiatives and policies that can better our working conditions,” says Zatz.

Three of Reich’s books will be on sale in the lobby of the theater before and after the lecture. The books include “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life,” “Reason: Why Liberals will win the Battle for America,” and “The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy.”

On the 10th anniversary of this lecture series, Zatz and colleagues at ASU and in the legal community are seeking to broaden the scope of the annual lecture, transforming it into the John P. Frank Memorial Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Social Justice, Law and Policy.

Frank was an advocate for social justice and is best known for representing Ernesto Miranda before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. The court ruling established that criminal suspects must be informed of their rights against self-incrimination and their right to consult with an attorney preceding questioning by police, which became known as the Miranda warning.

“John Frank was a leader in the Arizona legal community and across the nation,” says Zatz. “He was influential in shaping public policy through his work and legal counsel. We are honored to provide this occasion each year to reflect on his life and legacy. The new visiting professorship will allow us to expand opportunities for our distinguished visitor to engage further with faculty members, students and the local community.”

Frank was a legal scholar and historian, who authored 11 books, successfully argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and mentored junior colleagues who are now leaders in the local and national legal arena. In addition to the Miranda case, Frank was also well known for his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and for providing legal counsel to Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1992. His opinion was highly sought and regarded by presidents and Supreme Court justices alike.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. More information at 480-965-7682. The Evelyn Smith Music Theatre is located in the School of Music building. Online maps of the Tempe campus and parking facilities are at:">"> Download Full Image

Spotlight shines on solar power, lighting research

March 13, 2009

Imagine flexible lighting devices manufactured by using printing techniques. Imagine solar power sources equally as reliable and as portable as any conventional power source.

Such advances are among aims of research at Arizona State University to find ways of more effectively harnessing solar power and producing more energy-efficient, durable and custom-designed light sources. The work is now drawing support from two international corporations. Download Full Image

U.S.-based Solterra Renewable Technologies Inc. and Nitto Denko Technical-NDT of Japan are investing more than $3.7 million through grants to help fund the research led by ASU engineering professor Ghassan Jabbour.

Jabbour’s work focuses on the use of nanomaterials and quantum dots in solar cells and solid state lighting. Technical advances in this area “will open the way for a new wave of more efficient and portable power and light sources in as many shapes and varieties as designers can imagine,” he says.

Jabbour, who teaches in ASU’s School of Materials, is doing his research through the Advanced Photovoltaics Center, which he directs. The center is part of the Arizona Institute for Renewable Energy at ASU. Jabbour also is director of optoelectronics research for the Flexible Display Center, part of the univerisity’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

Illuminating printing processes

Work funded by the grants will include the study of the materials science, physics and engineering solutions necessary to produce the next generation of solar cells, which will cost less to produce and perform more efficiently, Jabbour says.

The project is an example of the economic benefit a research university can bring to its state. Each year, Arizona universities contribute nearly $1 billion into the Arizona economy from their research, most of which is funded by the U.S. government and entities from outside the state. Research money brought in by universities is restricted money that can be used only for the research activity it supports. It cannot be used to compensate for cuts in other parts of the university’s budget.

The quantum dots/solar cells project already has brought a small company to open new operations at the ASU Research Park. Given the increasing interest in solar energy and the means to produce it at lower costs, the company can be expected to grow rapidly, Jabbour says.

One of the major scientific and engineering challenges of Ghassan’s project involves how to employ printing techniques to fabricate low-cost alternatives to current solar cells. Research articles on printed organic solar cells written by Jabbour and other members of his team continue to be cited by fellow researchers more than any other articles in the area of printed ultra-thin solar area research. (Ultra-thin means it involves materials less than 100 times the thickness of a typical human hair.)

Printing is a viable method for mass production of solar cells. Some printing techniques, such as silk-screen printing (commonly used to print logos, numbers and pictures on textiles), are already used in some aspects of solar cell manufacturing.

Printing allows for large numbers of solar-cell devices to be manufactured rapidly, thus eventually bringing down costs.

“In our work, we will be investigating various techniques such as inkjet printing, screen printing, and roll-to-roll, which is similar to newspaper printing techniques, to see what works best for solar cell manufacturing,” Jabbour says.

The power of photons

The material science and engineering aspect of the projects involves experiments with materials that exhibit unique properties at the nanoscale, specifically materials that use photons to achieve more efficient conversion of energy into electricity. The materials also have a broader absorption spectrum of incident solar light – meaning they can make more effective use of solar light for conversion into electricity.

“It’s traditional to generate one electron-hole pair for every absorbed photon in most solar cells,” Jabbour says, but researchers in his lab are working on generating more multiple electron-hole pairs per photon to achieve increased power-conversion efficiency. This is accomplished by producing a higher number of electrons for each absorbed photon from incident light.

In most bulk semiconducting materials, Jabbour explains, absorption of an incident photon (light quanta) with the right energy can excite an electron enough to move it across an energy band gap – thus resulting in an electron-hole pair. But the same photon might generate more than one electron-hole pair if the material is made into much smaller dimensions – such as the size of a quantum dot.

Quantum dots are small particles about few nanometers (a billionth of a meter) in size. By adjusting the particles’ physical dimensions, their optical and electronic properties can be fine-tuned. Through such a process, the resulting characteristics of the materials are different than the characteristics of the same material in bulk size, Jabbour explains.

The challenge is how to extract most of the charges from the dots to transfer in the form of electrical current to the device being powered by the solar cell, he says.

Recent results of 3 percent in power conversion in this area are encouraging. Such an efficiency will continue to climb as better materials and device structures are being developed, which is a part of Jabbour’s work supported by the grants.

Energy conservation goals

More efficient solar cells are only one part of the solution to the nation’s growing energy needs. Just as important is making efficient use of energy in conventional systems, Jabbour says.

The two technologies he and his team are working on are interrelated, involving both energy generation and energy conservation. Although there is a strong push for alternative energy, including solar energy, Jabbour says much can be accomplished by focusing on research to lower the power consumption of conventional technologies. This work involves the area of solid state lighting.

One of the corporate grants is supporting work directly aimed at understanding the materials and device physics of nanoscale structures for low-power, nanothick solid state lighting applications.

The materials used are hybrid nanomaterials targeting white-light emission from a single building block. The light source made out of these materials also will have a nano-range thickness and can be operated at high brightness (equivalent to a ceiling lamp) using a 9-volt battery source. Just as with solar cells, these light sources will also be printable in the future, Jabbour says.

Flexibility in lighting devices

“The beauty of these two projects is their compatibility with rugged substrates, including flexible ones,” he says.

A substrate is a material on which circuits or other small devices are formed or fabricated. Flexible substrates (for example, plastic, thin metal foils, or cloth) allow for more durable lights that also weigh less than conventional lighting devices and can be produced in a variety of shapes.

“Imagine a light that is made on a roll that can be cut into various shapes according to the desire of the user,” Jabbour says. Such an advance is still far off, but not impossible. In fact, he points out, printed lights made out of inorganic phosphors that operate at about 120 to 150 volts are already available. The drawback is that currently they can be operated only at such high voltages.

The two technologies promise to provide low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells and solid state lights that can be made on thin flexible substrates, resulting in light-weight durable modules that are easier to place on roof tops (for example, solar-cell arrays) and indoors (lamps and similar lighting devices).

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering