Learn more about the expertise and technical skills of NREL's concentrating solar power research team and staff by reading our short biographies:
Desikan Bharathan—Principal Engineer
Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia
M.S. Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia
B. Tech. Aeronautical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Desikan Bharathan, currently a Principal Engineer at NREL, graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, with a B. Tech degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1970. He completed his master's and doctoral work in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, by 1976. He was a research associate professor at the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, for four years until 1980. He joined the Solar Energy Research Institute, now NREL, and has worked on a variety of renewable energy technologies, including geothermal and ocean thermal energy systems. His expertise is in fluid flow, heat transfer, and system design. He hails from the city of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-275-4613
Nate Blair—Group Manager, Data Analysis and Visualization
M.B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison Solar Energy Laboratory
B.A. Physics, Gustavus Adolphus College
Read Nate's biography on NREL's Energy Analysis Office Web site.
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Daniel M. Blake—Emeritus Principal Scientist and Subcontractor
Ph.D. Chemistry, Washington State University
B.S. Chemistry, Colorado State University
Dan was hired at SERI/NREL in 1986. Current work is on developing heat-transfer fluids and innovative thermal storage materials. He has led work on developing materials for solar applications; materials and design concepts for large-area solar reactors for solar photoelectrochemical and biological hydrogen production from water; and developing photocatalytic systems for removing chemical and biological contaminants from air and water. In 1992, the photocatalytic team won an R&D 100 award for a Solar Detoxification process. He also led work on deactivating biological agents using liquid desiccant technology. In 2006, Dan received the Hubbard Award at NREL for his sustained, clearly defined, high-level research contributions, and true leadership and initiative in furthering the image of NREL. Dan has assisted the DOE Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative with thermal cycle evaluation and monitoring technical progress in thermal cycle R&D and monitored work on a pilot-scale test of a new production process for solar-grade silicon, which was a joint US-Russian project funded by DOE. He continues to work with the Concentrating Solar Program on innovative methods for thermal energy storage and new heat transfer fluids. Prior to joining NREL, Dan was a Senior Scientist and Group Manager for ARCO Metals Company in Tucson, AZ. There, he worked on processes to improve alumina properties for aluminum production. Prior to that he was Professor of Chemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington, where he taught inorganic chemistry and carried out research on the synthesis and thermochemistry of compounds of the platinum group metals. He has been awarded three U.S. patents—a commercial process for high-purity alumina production, photocatalytic reactor design, and air-cleaning systems. He has published more than 80 papers and book chapters. And he has made over 100 presentations at conferences, symposia, and professional meetings.
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Jonas Cafferty—Student Intern
B.S. Mechanical Engineering (Renewable Energy minor), Colorado School of Mines (Junior year)
Jonas Cafferty began working at NREL in August 2011 as a student intern/RPP with the Advanced Materials Team. His work revolves around testing mirror characteristics, which includes gathering and placing samples in various weathering environments, testing the solar-weighted values for reflectivity/transmittance, and maintaining an accurate database of all samples tested at NREL. Currently a junior at the Colorado School of Mines, his major is Mechanical Engineering with a minor in renewable energy. At Mines, he is also involved in various extra-curricular activities. He is a peer mentor who will be a lead peer mentor for the 2012–2013 school year; he holds a chair position in the school's activities council (MAC), is currently in charge of the annual Engineering Days (E-Days) celebration, and is a member of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi. After graduation, he would like to continue working in the renewable energy field.
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Victor Castillo—Research Technician III
A.S., Electronics Engineering Technology
Victor joined NREL in 2011. His current work is in the design, fabrication, and assembly of prototype test facilities. Prior to NREL, he spent several years in the research and development of fuel cell technology.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-7476
Greg Glatzmaier—Senior Engineer II
Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, University of Colorado
B.A. Chemistry, St. Johns University
Greg originally joined NREL in 1987 and worked in the Solar Thermal Program until 1997. During this time, he demonstrated a new concentrating solar technology and initiated a multi-year collaboration with Coors Ceramics Company to develop a high-temperature materials synthesis process. He received three patents for this work.
From 1997 to 2007, Greg operated an R&D small business in which he developed fluid compressor designs and feedback control mechanisms for space applications. This work was funded with several R&D grants from NASA and the U.S. Air Force. He received one patent for this work.
In 2007, Greg rejoined NREL and the CSP team to work on systems analysis, novel heat-transfer fluids, and thermal-storage concepts for concentrating solar power technologies. He currently manages the advanced heat-transfer fluids and thermal-storage work at NREL.
Contact information: email@example.com, 303-384-7470
Judith Gomez—Postdoctoral Researcher
Ph.D. Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Colorado School of Mines
M.S. Materials Engineering, Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela
B.S. Materials Engineering, Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela
Judith joined the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) team in 2010. She is developing new formulations of molten salts as thermal energy storage (TES) materials and advanced heat transfer fluids (HTF) for parabolic trough systems. She is also involved in nanofluids research as a state-of-the-art HTF material. Part of her activities include developing protocols for thermal property determinations for TES and HTF. For her Ph.D. work, she developed a new process in molten-salt electrolysis for which a patent application is pending. She currently holds a volunteer appointment as Research Assistant Professor at Colorado School of Mines, where she helps to teach Advanced Materials Thermodynamics and serves as member on graduate theses committees.
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Allison Gray—Engineer I
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Allison joined NREL in 2008, working as an engineer in the Concentrating Solar Power group. Before working at NREL, Allison worked on concentrating solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies for 4 years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her work there included investigating system performance and reliability, data acquisition, and solar resource studies. Her Master's thesis focused on improving the passive cooling system of a high concentrating photovoltaic system using a numerical model and experimental data.
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Matthew Gray—Scientist IV
Ph.D. Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
B.A. Physics, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Matthew joined the Thermal Systems Group at NREL in 2011. He is working with the Advanced Optical Materials team developing improved solar reflectors, solar absorbers, and instruments to characterize their performance. The group is interested in developing and benchmarking materials that form part of the low-cost, high-efficiency, and long-lived concentrating solar power plants of the near future. Matthew came to NREL from the photovoltaic industry where he worked on performance testing, durability, and metrology of flexible CIGS modules. Previously, he had worked as a process engineer covering all aspects of high-speed diode laser fabrication including device design, process development, failure analysis, and performance and lifetime qualification testing. His graduate and postdoctoral work focused on sub-diffraction-limited optical characterization of surface defects in semiconductors and other thin films. Through this work, Matthew has gained expertise in thin-film deposition, material metrology, and optical interactions with surfaces.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-275-3917
Benjamin Ihas—Engineer II
M.E. Optical Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
B.E. Engineering Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder
Ben joined NREL's Concentrating Solar Power group in 2010. His time is split between the Distant Observer and VSHOT parabolic trough measurement projects, where he helps to improve and design the tools. His expertise includes system design and measurement and test design and execution. After college, Ben began working at InPhase Technologies, a small start-up in Longmont, CO. The company develops a holographic data storage drive and its recording medium. There, Ben began characterizing storage mediums, and gradually advanced to become the product and firmware test group lead. While working at InPhase, Ben earned his Master's degree in Optical Engineering. The company eventually closed in 2010 due to lack of venture funding. This unfortunate event led Ben to NREL, where now he realizes his lasting ambition by contributing to renewable energy technologies.
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Cheryl Kennedy—Senior Scientist I
M.S. Material Science, Colorado School of Mines
B.S. Chemistry, Mary Washington
B.A. Physics, University of Colorado at Denver
NREL hired Cheryl in 1987. She has led the Advanced Materials Team at NREL since 2003. The team develops advanced reflector and absorber materials for use in low-cost, high-performance, and high-reliability systems that use concentrated sunlight to generate power, with an emphasis on large multi-megawatt parabolic trough systems and smaller kilowatt-scale concentrating photovoltaic systems. The team collaborates with solar manufacturers and interacts with the coatings industry.
Cheryl's technical skills include testing and analyzing the performance and durability of optical materials, accelerated testing equipment capabilities, thin-film optical modeling, and thin-film deposition of reflective and barrier coatings. She has received two patents: one in 1990 for Durable Metallized Polymer Mirror, and another in 1993 for Organized Molecular Assemblies as Protective Encapsulants and Adhesion Promoting Interlayers for Solar Reflector Applications.
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Chuck Kutscher—Principal Engineer/Group Manager
Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado-Boulder
M.S. Nuclear Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
B.S. Physics, State University of New York at Albany
Chuck joined NREL in 1978 and is a Principal Engineer and Group Manager of the Thermal Systems Group in the Center for Electricity, Resources, and Building Systems Integration. His projects have included the design and construction of a solar cooling test laboratory; production of NREL's solar industrial process heat design handbook; modeling of advanced power cycles and cooling systems for geothermal power plants; and development of transpired solar air collectors, which won an R&D 100 Award and a Popular Science "Best of What's New" award. He currently leads NREL's parabolic trough R&D activities. He served as Chair of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) during 2000–2001 and was General Chair of the SOLAR 2006 national solar energy conference. He is editor of the 200-page ASES report, Tackling Climate Change in the U.S., and writes a monthly column on climate change for SOLAR TODAY magazine. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he recently developed and taught a course entitled, "Climate Change Solutions." He received the 2006 Charles Greeley Abbot Award, the highest honor given by ASES, for "outstanding contributions in the research and development of solar thermal technologies." He recently received the 2008 Colorado Governor's Excellence in Renewable Energy Individual Award. He has published more than 70 papers and chapters in several books and has served as an Associate Editor for the journal Solar Energy.
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Claire Lawson—Student Intern
Student, Electrical Engineering, University of Colorado-Boulder
Claire joined NREL in August 2011 as a student intern with the Advanced Materials team. At NREL, she performs laboratory testing on reflector and absorber materials; monitoring the performance, durability, and life span of test samples that are weathered under differing weather conditions in various locations. She is a junior at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she is majoring in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis on Energy and Power Systems. She is also a member of the CU Honor Code, Energy Club, Women in Engineering Society, and Women in Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering Club. In April 2011, she received her HAM Radio License and worked with a CU professor to start a HAM Radio Club at CU.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-6284
Zhiwen Ma—Senior Engineer I
Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
M.S. Thermal Engineering, Tsinghua University
B.S. Thermal Engineering, Tsinghua University
Zhiwen joined NREL in 2009 working in the Concentrating Solar Power Group. He has experience in multiple fields, including combustion, fluidization, hydrogen and fuel cells, electronic thermal management and packaging, and gas turbines. He taught in the Department of Engineering Mechanics at Tsinghua University for three years, conducted multiphase flow research, and developed pyrometer techniques for measuring gas turbine temperatures. Since 2001, he was Test and Modeling Engineer in Fuel Cell Energy, and worked on molten carbonate fuel cell performance and life improvement for cost reduction. He was also involved in the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) program, supporting the testing and modeling of solid-oxide fuel cell stacks and system design.
Zhiwen has papers, a book chapter, and a patent published in the areas of fuel cells and thermal fluids. Before joining NREL, he worked for GE Aviation on gas turbine flow and heat-transfer design. He currently works on system analysis, measuring the properties of heat-transfer fluids, and developing thermal-storage concepts for CSP technology.
Contact information: email@example.com, 303-275-3784
Janna Martinek—Postdoctoral Researcher
Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, University of Colorado
M.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Colorado
B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Colorado
Janna Martinek joined NREL in 2012 as a postdoctoral researcher. Her current work involves developing computational models to evaluate the performance of power tower receiver concepts. For her graduate work, Janna developed models coupling radiative transfer with heat transfer, mass transfer, and chemical reaction kinetics in order to analyze the performance and optimize the geometric configuration of a solar receiver used for high-temperature solar-thermal reaction processes.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-275-3779
Michael Martinez—Research Technician
Mike joined NREL's CSP division in May 2010. He primarily works on designing and fabricating laboratory equipment to facilitate the testing and development of various products within NREL's CSP division.
Some of the projects that Mike has worked on include: Abengoa trough removal from the tracker at the SIMTA site; receiver tube hydrogen mitigation test fixture; receiver tube outdoor optical test stand; collector optical measurements projects; High Flux Solar Furnace projects; and advanced materials shutter project.
Mike's technical skills include CAD mechanical and electrical design, machining using a CNC/Manual mill or manual lathe, and electrical and mechanical assembly. Prior to joining NREL, he worked in research and development for 31 years.
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Mark Mehos—Principal Program Manager
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of California at Berkeley
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado
Mark has been with NREL since 1986. He has led the High Temperature Solar Thermal Team at NREL since 1998 and has managed the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Program since 2001. The emphasis of NREL's High Temperature Solar Thermal Team is the development of low-cost, high-performance, and high-reliability systems that use concentrated sunlight to generate power, with an emphasis on large multi-megawatt parabolic trough systems and kilowatt-scale concentrating photovoltaic systems. He currently is a participating member of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's Concentrating Solar Power Task Force as well as the Solar Task Force for the Western Governors' Association Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative. In addition to managing the CSP program, he has managed and performed technical work within NREL's advanced optical materials, solar photocatalysis, and dish/Stirling research and development activities.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-7458
Ty Neises—Engineer II
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ty joined the Thermal Systems group at NREL in 2011. His current work involves studying concentrating solar power (CSP) systems and expanding current CSP modeling capabilities. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Solar Energy Lab, Ty studied the thermal characteristics and performance of photovoltaic (PV) modules and developed a model to predict the temperature of a PV module or array under various mounting configurations.
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Judy C. Netter—Mechanical Engineer II
B.S. Engineering Technology, St. Cloud State University, Minnesota
Judy joined the NREL staff in 1994. Her expertise involves the design, fabrication, and modification of prototype experimental equipment along with the programs and controls. She also has been heavily involved with testing in a wide variety of areas over the years. Prior to joining NREL, she was involved with installing and programming building automation, FLS, and security systems.
Major projects for CSP include the design of a multitude of experiments and test equipment for characterizing solar collectors/concentrators, most recently for parabolic troughs. She has also designed and assisted with tests involving trough receiver heat loss and hydrogen mitigation in trough receivers. Judy is involved in the operation of NREL's High-Flux Solar Furnace and has designed multiple secondary concentrators for the Furnace, along with cooling chambers and the design and fabrication of multiple accelerated weathering chambers for use at the Furnace for testing the degradation of polymer coatings. Other areas of her work have included the condensation of mixed working fluids for geothermal technology; lifetime durability testing of electro-chromic windows, thin films, photovoltaic cells, and polymers; photocatalysis; thermal management of power electronics as it relates to hybrid vehicles; and building technologies.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-6258
Marc Oddo—Research Technician
B.S., Chemical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines (expected graduation, 2011)
In 2007, Marc joined NREL, where he has worked on the Advanced Materials team. That team's primary objective has been to develop advanced reflector and absorber materials for low-cost, high-performance, and high-reliability systems using concentrated sunlight to generate power. Particular emphasis is on large multi-megawatt parabolic trough systems and smaller kilowatt-scale concentrating photovoltaic systems. NREL's Advanced Materials team directs the trough collaborative efforts with solar manufacturers and interacts with the coatings industry. Marc's technical skills include testing and analyzing the performance and durability of optical materials and supporting accelerated testing equipment capabilities.
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Teri Spinuzzi—Administrative Assistant
Teri joined the NREL staff in August of 1995. She currently provides administrative support to the Thermal Systems Group within NREL's Electricity, Resources and Building Systems Integration Center. Prior to joining the Thermal Systems Group, she provided administrative support to the Employment Team in Human Resources, the Deployment Programs Office and the Technology Transfer Office. Before coming to NREL, Teri spent many years at the rocky flats plant providing administrative support to various departments, such as Human Resources, Information Services and Industrial Hygiene.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-7425
Anne Starace—Postdoctoral Researcher
Ph.D. Chemistry, Indiana University–Bloomington
B.S. Chemistry, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Anne joined NREL in 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher working on novel heat transfer fluids and thermal energy storage systems for the Concentrating Solar Power program. For her graduate work, Anne studied the heat capacity and reactivity of unsupported metal nanoparticles. She is continuing her interest in nanoparticles in her work at NREL by studying the effect of the incorporation of nanoparticles into fluids on their thermophysical properties. She is also investigating mixtures of molten salts for applications in heat transfer and storage.
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Robert Tirawat—Research Technician II
B.S. Electrical Engineering Technology, Metropolitan State College
Robert joined NREL in 2008 as a student intern for the Advanced Materials team. He has since graduated and been brought on as a research technician. Robert is helping to develop low-cost, high-performance, and high-reliability systems that use concentrated sunlight to generate power. Recently, Robert has been involved in upgrading a three-chamber vacuum deposition system that will be used to produce solar-selective coatings for testing. In the future, Robert plans to pursue a master's degree in material science at the Colorado School of Mines.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-6360
Craig S. Turchi—Senior Engineer II
Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University
Craig originally joined NREL in 1990 working in the Solar Industrial Program on the detoxification of hazardous waste with solar ultraviolet light. He returned to NREL in 2008 after spending 10 years as a principal investigator and program leader with ADA Technologies, a technology development company in Littleton, CO. While at ADA, Craig served as a principal investigator for projects with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, DOE, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), as well as several private companies. As part of NREL's CSP team, Craig is assisting with system analysis and the development and assessment of heat-transfer fluids and thermal-storage concepts. Craig is the task leader for the CSP Program's Market Transformation activities, which includes technology-enabling issues such as solar resource assessment, cost estimation, land use, and grid integration/transmission.
Contact information: email@example.com, 303-384-7565
Michael Wagner–Engineer I
M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Mike joined the Concentrating Solar Power group at NREL in 2009. His work in the group primarily involves developing simulation capabilities for power-plant modeling. To improve the CSP knowledge base, he is exploring both general technology assessment tools and detailed, plant-specific models. His other activities include active involvement in developing the Solar Advisor Model (SAM) software. Before joining NREL, Mike's research for his Masters degree involved working in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Solar Energy Lab to produce simulation tools for solar power tower technology. He developed an optimization/design tool and detailed, transient system-component models.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-384-7430
Tim Wendelin—Senior Engineer II
M.S. Physics, Colorado School of Mines
B.S. Physics Engineering, Colorado School of Mines
Tim began work at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) as a student intern in 1981. He worked primarily on thermoelectric devices within the Materials Research group. Ultimately he became involved with thin-film research as applied to reflective surfaces. It was in this field that he completed his graduate thesis. Tim accepted a permanent position at SERI in 1984 working in the Thermal Systems group and has become an expert in optical/thermal modeling and testing of concentrating solar power optical systems. He has authored or coauthored numerous papers on various aspects of concentrating solar power (CSP) technology and holds three patents and two software copyrights. He has developed a variety of optical and thermal test instruments that characterize the performance of various solar concentrator designs. In addition to instrumentation design, he also developed an optical modeling code filling a gap in the tool set used by industry to design solar concentrating systems. These instruments and the optical modeling tool have been used extensively both at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, formerly SERI) and by industry to further the deployment and operation of CSP technology. Currently Tim continues to support optical technology development and optical testing of solar concentrating systems at NREL. He is also the technical project manager for several projects at the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC), including a 1.25-MW Thermal Energy Storage Test Facility.
Contact information: email@example.com, 303-384-7475
Guangdong Zhu—Mechanical Engineer IV
Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, University of New Mexico
M.S. Thermal Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University
B.S. Thermal Engineering, Northeast China Institute of Electric Power Engineering
Guangdong joined the Thermal Systems Group at NREL in 2010 and is working on research and development of CSP technologies. Currently, he serves as the primary operator of the Solar Industrial Mesa Test Area (SIMTA), where optical-efficiency testing for parabolic trough collectors is performed. He is also involved in optical/thermal modeling and economic analysis of solar concentrating systems.
Guangdong has an extensive background in power generation systems, heat-transfer processes, and fluid mechanics. He is also well versed in stress analysis, efficient computing, numerical modeling, and related experimental validation. He has authored or coauthored peer-reviewed papers, reports, and presentations in the areas of multiphase flow, power generation systems, and solar thermal power.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-275-4497