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QESST Engineering Research Center: transforming energy generation and production

A new university-industry-government collaboration led by ASU aims to accelerate solar energy advances and solve challenges to harnessing solar power in economically viable and sustainable ways.

The Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (ERC) is supported jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DOE) with $18.5 million in funding for the first five years of the center’s operations. Led by Christiana Honsberg, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, QESST’s academic partners include the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Delaware and the University of New Mexico.

Beyond enabling collaborations among university research teams, the center will bring universities, major energy companies, photovoltaics industry leaders and entrepreneurs together in partnerships.

Already, QESST has attracted 48 industry partners that span the spectrum—manufacturing, materials, production and installation, including successful high growth firms, commercial players moving into the space and 10 startups.

QESST will hold an industry information session on Oct. 3, in conjunction with the official ERC launch meeting with NSF and DOE.

The broad goal of QESST is to enable photovoltaic technologies to be capable of supplying a majority of new electricity generation in the United States within a decade, as well as providing power for up to 1.5 billion people worldwide who now have little or no access to electrical energy.

A strong component of the center’s mission is to improve engineering education and expand the community that is engaged in energy research and education—including teachers and students from K-12 through graduate levels.

Since 1985 the NSF ERC program has fostered broad-based research and education collaborations to focus on creating technological breakthroughs for new products and services and on preparing U.S. engineering graduates to successfully participate in the global economy. QESST is one of four centers launched this year as part of the third generation of NSF ERCs which place increased emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, partnerships with small research firms, and international collaboration and cultural exchange.

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