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Richard M. Swanson

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Biography

Considered one of the premier authorities on crystalline-silicon solar cell technology, processing and manufacturing, Richard M. Swanson has enabled solar power to become a viable clean-energy resource. Known for a special ability to bridge fundamental and applied research and to bring laboratory concepts to manufacturing more quickly, Dr. Swanson is internationally recognized for both his research and industry accomplishments. His conceptualization, development and commercialization of the point-contact silicon solar cell addressed the challenge of improving efficiencies of converting solar power to electricity in photovoltaic systems. Dr. Swanson’s invention is a high-efficiency silicon photovoltaic concentrator cell that uses light-trapping techniques and point-diffused contacts on the rear surface for collection of current. Dr. Swanson shepherded his laboratory concept to viable consumer use by founding SunPower Corporation in 1991 to develop and commercialize cost-effective photovoltaic power systems. Early on, the company’s solar cells helped power Honda Corporation to victory in the 1993 World Solar Challenge and propelled the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s high-altitude solar-powered airplane “Helios” to an altitude of 96,863 feet—a record for a nonrocket-powered aircraft. Today, SunPower is a world leader in photovoltaic systems ranging from residential rooftops to commercial systems to large solar farms. Dr. Swanson has continued his photovoltaic research and development to provide a roadmap for future enhancements of silicon solar technology to further improve conversion efficiencies.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Swanson is currently the president and chief technical officer at SunPower Corporation, San Jose, Calif.