Michael Jura, Device Scientist, Bandgap Engineering
After earning his Ph. D. in Applied Physics at Stanford University, Michael decided to apply his technical skills to solar energy. Today he designs nanowire solar cells as a device scientist at Woburn, Massachusetts- based Bandgap Engineering. Nanowires are a new solar technology with the potential to increase the efficiency of traditional silicon solar cells while also decreasing cost.
"The nanowires reduce the reflection of light off a solar cell for light incoming at any angle; they also help trap that light within the cell," Michael said.
In graduate school, Michael became increasingly aware of the problems posed by traditional fossil fuel power plants and the relatively untapped potential of solar.
"I was eager to use my background in semiconductor physics to work on solar energy because of its ability to address the world's energy problems. Solar energy - likely unique in its capability to cleanly power the world - seemed like the obvious solution," he said. "Working on developing a new solar technology was how I could contribute."
Michael is all scientist, all the time. "I spend the majority of my time designing, measuring, and analyzing (silicon solar) cells and other related samples. I enjoy the challenge of understanding the technical details of this new nanowire technology," Michael said.
The technology of these solar cells is developing at a break-neck rate. "After understanding a current generation of our cells, we decide as a team how to improve the next generation of cells," Michael said. "Because our company is small, we all play many roles so that everything gets done. For example, I've gotten involved in projects ranging from solar cell processing to cost modeling. It's a very fun and collaborative environment," Michael said.
Working with people he respects and for a cause that he believes in makes the job rewarding.
"I enjoy the opportunity to work on a problem that I consider very important with a handful of very smart people. We have diverse backgrounds and it's fun to see how we approach problems differently," he said. "As we develop our technology, I like that every day there are fresh challenges: one day I am analyzing data trying to understand a batch of cells and the next I am working in the lab to improve a process."