BP Teams with Caltech to Explore Game-Changing Solar Technology

Jun 27, 2006, 01:00 ET from BP

    SAN DIEGO, June 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- BP and The California
 Institute of Technology have teamed up in a multi-million dollar research
 program that could open the door to a radical new way of producing solar
 cells, making the cost of solar electricity more competitive and increasing
 current efficiency levels.
     (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20000724/NYM120LOGO )
     The program was announced today at the Photovoltaics Summit 2006 in San
 Diego. For an initial five year period, BP and Caltech will explore a
 concept based on growing silicon by creating arrays of nanorods rather than
 by casting ingots and cutting wafers, which is the current conventional way
 of producing solar cells. Nanorods are small cylinders of silicon that can
 be 100 times smaller than a human hair and would be tightly packed in an
 array like bristles in a brush.
     A solar cell based on an array of nanorods will be able to efficiently
 absorb light along the length of the rods by collecting the electricity
 generated by sunlight more efficiently than a conventional solar cell.
     The contract has clear links with BP's long term technology strategy
 and builds on its proven strategy of partnering with some of the world's
 leading universities on key technology challenges. Caltech is one of many
 prestigious universities BP is working with globally on key technology
 projects. The program is also aligned with the launch of BP Alternative
 Energy in November 2005 -- a new business focused on developing low carbon
 options for the power industry which also includes the BP Solar business.
     Lee Edwards, BP Solar president, commented: "This program represents a
 significant commitment by BP to the long term potential of solar energy and
 compliments our existing technology programs with the promise for major
 breakthroughs in solar technology. Nanorod technology offers enormous
 promise however, like any new technology, challenges remain to make it
 commercially viable at scale."
     The Caltech solar nanorod program will be directed by two prominent
 scientists at Caltech, Dr. Nate Lewis and Dr. Harry Atwater. Dr. Lewis is
 the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry and is an expert in the areas
 of surface chemistry and photochemistry. Dr. Atwater is the Howard Hughes
 Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and is an
 expert in electronic and optoelectronic materials and devices. In addition,
 eight postdoctoral researchers and graduate students will work on the
     Lewis' group will investigate uses of nanotechnology to create designer
 solar cell materials, from nanorods to nanowires, in order to change the
 conventional paradigm for solar cell materials. "Nanotechnology can offer
 new and unique ways to make solar cell materials that are cheaper yet could
 perform nearly as well as conventional materials," said Dr. Lewis.
     Atwater's group will investigate approaches to create silicon-based
 single junction and compound semiconductor multijunction nanorod solar
 cells, using vapor deposition synthesis methods that are scaleable to very
 large areas. According to Dr. Atwater, "Using nanorods as the active
 elements opens up very new approaches to design and low-cost fabrication of
 high performance solar cells."
     About BP
     BP's main activities are the exploration for and production of crude
 oil and natural gas; oil refining, marketing, supply and transportation;
 and manufacturing and marketing of petrochemicals. BP has a growing
 activity in gas, power and alternative energy businesses. It is the world's
 second largest oil and gas company producing around three per cent of the
 oil and gas consumed in the world through operations in 100 countries and
 more than 96,000 employees. To learn more, visit www.bp.com.
     BP Solar is a key business within BP Alternative Energy and a global
 company with over 2200 employees focused on harnessing the sun's energy to
 produce solar electricity. This includes the design, manufacture and
 marketing of quality solar electric systems for a wide range of
 applications in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. With
 over 30 years of experience and installations in over 160 countries, BP
 Solar is one of the world's largest solar companies and has manufacturing
 facilities in the U.S., Spain, India and Australia. To learn more, visit