Department of Energy Honors Brookhaven Lab Scientist Vasilis Fthenakis for Photovoltaic Environmental Research

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Vasilis Fthenakis (Click image to download hi-res portrait.)

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has honored Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist Vasilis Fthenakis with a Certificate of Appreciation "for superior technical, management and communications skills exhibited in photovoltaic environmental research and in effective dissemination of research results."

An expert in chemical environmental and safety assessment, Fthenakis heads the National Photovoltaic Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S) Research Center operated at Brookhaven under the auspices of DOE. Photovoltaics are devices that convert solar energy to electricity. The center fosters the safe and environmentally friendly operation of photovoltaic facilities and products.

Fthenakis said, "I am gratified that my work in addressing the environmental, health, and safety needs of the photovoltaics industry, are recognized and appreciated. While photovoltaics supply only about one percent of the U.S. electricity needs today, the technology is bound to be a major energy source in the future. The efficiency of photovoltaic cells and modules and the cost of producing them are constantly improving as a direct effect of R&D support from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the recently announced American Solar Initiative should accelerate these improvements."

Photovoltaics have numerous environmental advantages over conventional power technologies; however, manufacturing solar cells requires the use of some toxic and flammable substances. Fthenakis and his associates help to minimize risk while ensuring economic viability and public support of the photovoltaic industry.

A native of Greece, Fthenakis received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Athens, a master's degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in fluid dynamics and atmospheric science from New York University. Fthenakis joined Brookhaven as a research engineer in 1980 and has served as head of the National Photovoltaic Environmental, Health and Safety Research Center since 2002. The center is cited in the annual report of DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Program as "the world's best source on PV-EHS, providing accurate information related to EHS issues and perceptions."

Fthenakis is frequently invited to give presentations and participate in expert workshops in Europe and Japan. Among other things, his research and presentations influenced a recent decision by the German Ministry of the Environment (BMU) to approve a new 100 MW/yr CdTe PV manufacturing plant in Germany by a U.S. company, which was awarded a 47-million Euro subsidy from the European Union.

Fthenakis' publications include coauthoring the book Prevention and Control of Accidental Releases of Gases and over 200 scientific papers and reports. He is a Fellow of both the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the International Energy Foundation. While maintaining his position at Brookhaven, Fthenakis recently established and became the first Director of a new Center for Life Cycle at Columbia University. The new center will capitalize on synergies between the Energy Sciences Department at Brookhaven and the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department at Columbia. He has also served as a safety and environmental consultant for major oil and chemical companies in the U.S. and as an expert witness on major chemical incidents in the U.S.

NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Vasilis Fthenakis is a resident of Dix Hills, NY.

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