The prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize has been awarded to Miles C. Barr for his innovative solar technologies and creativity. Barr received his Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012 and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering Practice in 2008. Barr's most recent inventive breakthrough — a pioneering approach to fabricating solar cells on a variety of everyday surfaces — could lead to widespread adoption of solar power. This approach, which enables solar cells to be printed directly on common materials like paper and textiles, could reduce the cost of solar energy by eliminating the need for specialized installation.
"Miles Barr is a terrific example of how not just science and math majors, but individuals with a multitude of interests can be successful inventors. We celebrate students like Miles, those with wide-ranging backgrounds who inspire creative thinking in others, with the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize," said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "With his passion for innovation, Miles has leveraged his diverse credentials to advance solar technology in a way that could change the world."
"There is a huge opportunity to harvest energy from the light that hits every surface around us," Barr said. "If we can take that energy and convert it into electricity without compromising the aesthetics of everyday surfaces that is extremely powerful." Developed with the support of the eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center and professors Karen Gleason and Vladimir Bulović, Barr's lightweight and bendable solar technology opens untapped venues for commercial applications, including wall paper, window shades, and clothing. The portability of the technology will allow for inexpensive power generation, which Barr not only hopes will increase adoption in the U.S., but help those in the developing world as well.
Inspired by seeing the technologies of fellow students go to market and recognizing the value of his own innovations, Barr developed a commercialization plan. He co-founded Ubiquitous Energy, Inc. in 2011, a technology start-up that recently secured initial funding to develop commercial prototypes. Ubiquitous Energy is currently focused on developing new technologies to deploy solar energy harvesting capabilities in the form of products and surfaces we interact with every day.
Source and top image: MIT