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UC Solar seeks efficiencies in solar energy creation and use

During a noontime presentation Wednesday, June 16, renowned UC Merced professor and UC Solar Director Dr. Roland Winston discussed UC’s efforts to create solar energy more efficiently and make it less expensive to use. Dr. Winston, who joined UCM in 2003 and was the university’s first physics professor, is a pioneer of solar energy utilization research. Converting sunlight into electricity is still fairly costly, making it difficult to garner widespread public use.

Along with UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara colleagues, researchers at UCM—the first new American research university in the 21st century—are looking for solutions to these issues. The team at the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar), which is a multi-campus, cross-disciplinary research platform for a variety of solar energy projects, undertakes a myriad of tasks – such as the development of novel photovoltaic devices and thermal energy for cooling buildings. “Especially in Merced, you really know cooling is important,” Winston remarked.

During his UCOP presentation, Winston, who is a distinguished physicist and one of the country’s leading solar power experts, also discussed thermodynamics, photovoltaic and solar lighting research and phase space in optics.

Dr. Winston is director of the UC Merced Energy Research Institute, and a presidential endowed chair and founding faculty member in the schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences at UCM. “The students are terrific,” he said. Winston and his students conduct their research at a state-of-the-art lab near the former site of Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.

In addition to solar power and renewable energy, Dr. Winston’s research interests include elementary particle physics and non-imaging optics—a field he invented—which is the science concerned with collecting, concentrating, transporting and distributing light energy in applications such as solar energy, signal detection, illumination optics, and measurement and testing. Non-imaging solar collectors that don’t need to track the sun have transformed solar energy utilization.

Dr. Winston has received numerous awards for his research in non-imaging optics and its applications to the solar energy field, and his inventions and patents have earned him national and international recognition. Dr. Winston earned a PhD, MS and a BS from the University of Chicago, taught and conducted research there for 39 years and was Chairman of its Physics Department for six years.

ORGS’ Seminar Series
Thanks to OP’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies (ORGS) for sponsoring Dr. Winston’s presentation. ORGS’ seminar series continues with Executive Director of the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research Sharon Shoemaker, of UC Davis’ Department of Food Sciences and Technology, on Monday, July 26, in Room 11326. Look for more details in upcoming editions of Link.

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