Professor Michael Gratzel, from the Lausanne Federal Technology Institute was named the Millennium Technology prize winner with an €800,000 financial award at Finland’s Technology Academy ceremony in Helsinki. Gratzel’s win comes from his innovation in which the Gratzel cell mimics the way plants turn sunlight into energy.
“I was always intrigued by the way plants capture sunlight and turn it into fuels like sugar. Natural photosynthesis was the inspiration, and our solar cell is the only one that mimics the natural photosynthetic process. You can imagine using those cells as electricity producing windows. What’s very exciting is that you collect light from all sides, so can capture electricity from the inside as well as the outside,” stated Gratzel.
The BBC reports that Gratzel cells rely on nanotechnology to produce power from sunlight. The cells have been used in consumer products, which include battery charging backpacks. Gratzel explained that nanocrystal films are being used where the particles are small enough to not scatter any light.
Two other nominees for the prize, each who won €150,000, were Professor Sir Richard Friend from the University of Cambridge, who invented organic light emitting diodes, and Professor Stephen Furber from Manchester University, the principal designer of the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor.