European Inventor Award

Your favourite inventor hasn’t been honoured yet?

Nominate your favorite inventor

The Sun God

European Inventor of the Year 2009 in the category "Lifetime achievement"  

There is hardly a scientist who has done more for the advancement of solar energy than 80-year-old Adolf Goetzberger, who has pioneered solar technology research and founded Europe's largest research institute for solar energy. His achievements as a whole have helped turn a fringe energy source into a multi-billion EUR industry.

Still from nominee film (JPG)

At a glance

Inventor: Adolf Goetzberger (D)

Invention: Fluorescent planar collector concentrators for solar energy conversion

Sector: Renewable energy

Company: ISE

When Goetzberger started to round up support for solar energy in the mid-1970s, the world's total solar cell production was at just 500 Kilowatts.

Goetzberger excelled in his early career working in semiconductor research. In the 1960s, he worked with a U.S. Nobel Prize winner and at Bell Laboratories in the United States. During that stretch, Goetzberger published work that still plays a vital role in today's semiconductor technology.  But he eventually returned to Germany to realise his dream - to help solar energy to a breakthrough.

In the late 1970s, he provided visionary research into fluorescent planar collector-concentrators for solar energy conversion, which could revolutionise efficiency levels of solar power generation. In 1981, he founded the Freiburg-based Fraunhofer-Institut for Solar Energy Systems (ISE).

Over the next few years he drove groundbreaking research in the young sector. To this day, his book "Photovoltaic Solar Energy Generation" is a standard cited by scientists all over the world.

Under Goetzberger's lead, the ISE developed the first highly efficient, fully electronic inverter for stand-alone photovoltaic systems, and it took first steps toward highly efficient silicon and III-V solar cells, thin-film solar cells and solar-grade silicon.

In the field of improving efficiency, it co-operated in the development of the first transparent insulation materials, which hit the market in 1988.

In 1989, the institute participated in the 1 000 Roofs Programme, at the time the world's largest, wide-scale testing project of small, grid-connected photovoltaic systems. In the early 1990s, the ISE also pioneered an energy self-sufficient, zero-emissions house that today is replicated all over the world.

Goetzberger has cooperated in researching Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), which could satisfy all of Europe's electricity needs by 2050, a study sponsored by the German government found.

Today, the European photovoltaic industry is worth 14 billion EUR a year, and Germany is home to the world's largest solar PV market. It's difficult to envision such a development without the work - and persistence - of Adolf Goetzberger.

Quick Navigation