Dr. Martha Lux-Steiner is the head of the Institute for Heterogeneous Material Systems at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and a professor in the Department of Physics at Freie Universität Berlin. In the course of her career, the well-known scientist has developed new material systems for solar cells, advanced the transfer of technology, and been involved in teaching activities and activities to support junior scientists, as the organization acknowledged when announcing the award. She was also commended for repeatedly taking new approaches, including through a summer school program in the mountains in Switzerland, where young people from the fields of architecture, business administration, and natural science work with renewable energy in both practice and theory. In the past 20 years alone, during her time in Berlin at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin, she has encouraged more than 160 scientists to embark on a career in the renewable energy sector, sparking their intellectual curiosity and successfully following along as they have climbed the academic ladder, from finishing a degree to earning a doctorate. Some have even gone on to become professors in their own right.
EUROSOLAR will present the special achievement prize for outstanding individual commitment to Lux-Steiner at an awards ceremony to be held at the Ibach-Haus venue in the town of Schwelm on October 17. “I am delighted to receive this public acknowledgement,” Lux-Steiner says. EUROSOLAR grants these awards in recognition of people who act as particular role models and trailblazers for the use of renewable energies.
Lux-Steiner practices what she preaches, not just on the job, but also in her personal life. For example, she has equipped her house in the Swiss mountains with a heat pump and a powerful six-kilowatt system that generates more energy than she needs for herself. The system consists of chalcopyrite thin film solar cells, which she studied years ago herself and then further developed to the point of readiness for real-world use. Young members of her working group at the time founded a manufacturing company that was successful for years, employing more than 200 at the height of its success. It was not until the big crisis struck that the business had to close. “In spite of these kinds of setbacks, I believe in the future, including that of the European solar industry. That’s because things are still working even better, even more efficiently, taking up significantly less space and with improved aesthetics. With our research, we are paving the way to a sustainable energy supply, because solar energy will play a very large role in it,” Lux-Steiner says with conviction.
Lux-Steiner, a native of Switzerland, started her career in the renewable energy sector in 1980, at the University of Konstanz. Her research at the time focused most especially on crystal growth for new materials for use in photovoltaic technology. In 1990, she spent the year as a visiting fellow at Princeton University, where she did research on amorphous silicon thin film solar cells. In 1995, she joined the Hahn-Meitner Institute, in Berlin, as a lead researcher charged with building a new department in solar energy research. Since then, she has dedicated her efforts to research on thin films. At the same time, she was appointed to serve as the first C4 professor of physics at Freie Universität Berlin.
In 1999, Lux-Steiner was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, First Class, for her scientific achievements in the field of solar energy generation and her special dedication to regional cooperation between industry and the research sector. The award was presented by German President Johannes Rau.
Lux-Steiner is active in numerous German and international advisory and expert panels, including the panel of judges for the EXIST Transfer of Research program organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) to support spinoffs, the Board of Directors of the German Renewable Energy Research Association (FVEE), and the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform. She is also involved in the national advisory panels in countries such as the UK and Switzerland for the evaluation and further development of these countries’ national energy research programs.
Professor Lux-Steiner holds numerous patents and other industrial property rights. She also received the Hahn-Meitner Technology Transfer Prize together with part of her research team back in 2004. Lux-Steiner raised external funding at the European level that enabled her to initiate and coordinate a several-year EU project; the photovoltaic research project, which was the largest of its kind in Europe in 2006, received about 21 million euros in funding. Universities, research institutions, and companies from eleven countries worked together to accelerate the transfer of thin film photovoltaic technology, which conserves resources and energy, from labs to the market.
Lux-Steiner is also open to other viewpoints that affect the success of solar modules – not just economic and political perspectives, but also aesthetic aspects. “I think solar modules don’t have to look quite so obvious, for example; they could fit in more harmoniously on roofs or other surfaces, for example as decorative shiny elements on façades,” she says. To foster dialogue between the various disciplines and introduce young people from the fields of architecture, political science, business and economics, and natural science to solar energy, the professor has also been holding a two-week international summer school program on renewable energy since 2009, in addition to the classes she teaches at Freie Universität. The program, called ISUenergy, offers students from all countries a broad overview of political and economic aspects related to renewable energies. In the process, they work together on interdisciplinary group projects.
Dr. Martha Lux-Steiner will receive the EUROSOLAR German Solar Prize for her commitment and dedication in research and teaching activities on October 17, 2015.
Image Credit: Roland Horn / HZB
The photo is available to media representatives for downloading. When it is used in the context of the press release and credited to “Roland Horn / HZB,” no fee is charged.