This is an excerpt from the October 4, 2012: Avatars for PV inspectors, Bay Area best practices, and fellowships for a bright future edition of the SunShot newsletter.
SunShot Profile: Fellow Highlight
Not every student walks away from high school chemistry class motivated to change the world, so Alex Polizzotti must not have been your average student. This avid runner was driven to pursue his high school fascination with chemistry and strong interest in lab work related to renewable energy. As a SunShot Junior Fellow, Alex is already making great strides at the outset of his solar career.
In July 2011, shortly after receiving his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Pomona College, Alex joined the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Program. Through his SunShot Initiative fellowship, he is examining alternative and earth-friendly resources for solar cells that are capable of meeting ambitious cost targets.
Alex is exploring third-generation thin-film solar cells and various earth-abundant materials, especially copper zinc tin sulfide (CZTS). CZTS is a semiconducting compound similar to copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), but unlike CIGS it is composed of earth-abundant and non-toxic elements.
"I hope to explore solar knowledge that hasn't gotten much attention yet," Alex said. "If, because of my work, people examine an important technology issue that wasn't really looked at before, I will feel as though I have done well."
Alex knows that integrating the perspective of both private industry and the scientific community is critical for introducing new solar materials into practical use. He is using his fellowship to obtain input from many highly respected sources across the industry.
"The highlight of my fellowship is being able to meet all the best minds in the field," Alex said. "By the time I enter graduate school, I want to really know how to ask the important questions, like what the cost drivers are and where the big limitations are technologically. I want to have built up a set of contacts and resources that I can draw upon and collaborate with in the future as I develop my skills and body of work."
Looking forward, Alex plans to stay in the field after completing a Ph.D. in materials chemistry. Looking back, the solar industry will surely one day be grateful that this swift-footed student chose to pursue the path of photovoltaic science.
SunShot Fellowships give recent graduates with technical backgrounds the opportunity to explore a range of areas that interest them, including finance, market behavior, and technology transfer. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply year-round for this program.