LightWorks Blog

ASU’s Power Parasol: Cutting-Edge Solar Structure Implements Energy and Shade to Lot 59

published May 10, 2012, 12:56 pm

The massive Lot 59 parking area, located between Sun Devil and Packard stadium, was notorious for being one of the most sweltering parking lots on ASU’s Tempe campus. Although being one of the more affordable ASU parking lots, the lack of shade and distance from campus made students dread the arrival to their car that had beyond question absorbed heat by roasting in the sun.

Lot 59 accommodates over 6000 parking spaces making it the largest black-top parking lots at the university. Because of the abundance of space and the powerful amount of sun directed in that area, Lot 59 grasped the attention of ASU and NRG Solar for the nation’s first PowerParasol™ installation.

The PowerParasol™ project marks the first partnership between ASU and NRG Solar. The innovative solar structure began as the vision of Arizona-based Strategic Solar Energy, LLC. Construction began in August 2011 and was finished by December 2011.  

PowerParasol™ is a 24-foot high solar-panel structure covering a vast 5.25 acres. The structure covers 800 parking spaces providing not only much obliged shade, but also sustainable solar energy from the panels that generate 2.1 megawatts of electricity. To give you an idea of how powerful 2.1 megawatts of solar energy is, consider that one megawatt of solar energy can power about 250 homes.


The sunshine that had previously heated up student’s cars has now transformed into valuable, clean energy through the PowerParasol™. The solar panels soak up energy from the sun while providing shade, yet still allowing natural light to shine through making areas of landscaping possible. When the sun goes down, the energy produced from the solar panels has enough power to provide nighttime lighting in the parking lot, power security cameras, and power vehicle electrical charging stations.

By implementing the PowerParasol™ over Lot 59, ASU takes a positive leap forward toward supporting solar energy in Arizona.

PowerParasol™ Grand Opening Video:

 PowerParasol™ Grand Opening Slideshow:

 More pictures available from Strategic Solar Energy, LLC.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks


For more information visit: 

Arizona Solar Summit, Spring 2012: Breaking through the Barriers to a Solar Future in the Southwest

published May 1, 2012, 2:08 pm

The Spring 2012 Arizona Solar Summit took place March 26-27, 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. Participants included a wide-range of panelists and speakers from a variety of Southwestern states. The goal of this year’s summit was to explore the current barriers in solar expansion and identify the challenges acting as inhibitors to a solar build-out. Panel discussions focused specifically on the way state actors and federal agencies could work together in solar development in the Southwest.


The Arizona Solar Summit began in 2011 as a way for industry to come together and create a road map for Arizona solar. This discussion fed into the themes presented in this year’s summit. Kris Mayes, former Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC) Chairwoman and current head of the Law and Sustainability program at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, sees the summit as a way to help define Arizona as a solar hub, to gauge the way solar will evolve, and to determine how Arizona can position itself to progress with it.

One of the key themes to emerge from the summit centered around energy policy and its various effects on manufacturers, solar marketability, and development. There was also discussion around Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) currently set to achieve 15% of power from renewable sources by 2025, a modest number (some argued too modest). Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton stated, “The fifteen percent needs to be the floor, not the ceiling.”

Naturally, this placed Arizona House Bill 2789 (HB 2789) contextually within this discussion. HB 2789 seeks to cap Arizona’s RES at this modest 15% even though it has benefited industry and provided incentives for individuals and businesses. As many panelists noted, it is equally detrimental to Arizona’s economic climate because it deters industry from choosing Arizona as a place to operate; the legislative swings create what appears to be an unstable environment for solar development. In his introduction, Mayor Stanton thanked Kris Mayes for her service In the ACC, calling her his “favorite Republican,” and expressed his hopes that the current legislature does not undo all the work she has done. Arizona is fantastically positioned to be a solar leader with 300+ days of sunshine every year and vast amounts of land for solar development. Public polls consistently reveal strong solar support, yet it remains to be seen whether the Arizona RES will continue to be supported by the state’s legislature.

In addition to policy issues, panelists and audience members discussed exports and power transmission potential. The power grid will certainly require an overhaul to integrate new energy systems like solar. With Arizona’s rich solar resource, there is a lot of potential to export power to neighboring states like California, but it is equally important to have a power system that is capable of distributing energy to those areas. Bill White from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid said that this is an important message to bring to the conversation, that a grid overhaul is needed in order to move renewables like solar to greater levels.

The keynote speaker, John Wellinghoff, cited Germany as an example to learn from in terms of solar power production, implementation, and policy. Germany produces the amount of solar energy in one month that the whole United States produces in one year. Wellinghoff noted that although Arizona has the potential to be the leading solar state in the country, we rank third behind California and New Jersey. He also noted the dependence of solar as an emerging technology on federal policy in order to be competitive against traditional carbon-based energy sources. Multiple conversations addressed the need to make solar a mainstream energy source in order to grow public and federal support. Wellinghoff noted that in order to mainstream solar, it is vital that solar development companies “walk and talk like conventional energy companies.”

In addition to policy and legislative structures, civic engagement and education often became an underlying theme. Several twitter users engaged in conversation throughout the summit with the hashtag #azsolarsummit, indicating that there is somewhat of a civic following, though this could certainly grow to include a wider variety of the public. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith noted the frequency with which his constituents were often unaware of what constitutes “solar energy,” and upon obtaining the facts, they often walked away supporting solar with new perspectives.

Twitter user Jeffrey Luth concluded: “Key takeaway from #azsolarsummit is need for broad-based coalition that can reach all Arizonans with a cohesive & compelling solar story.”

It seems clear that the conversations need to continue in order to determine this solar story and utlimately to share it. Details on a third solar summit will be forthcoming. Visit for more information.

Videos of the 2012 Arizona Solar Summit are now available on Vimeo.

Slideshow from 2012 Arizona Solar Summit:

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks


Additional coverage:

Discovering ASU’s Sustainability Initiatives: A Self-Guided Tour of the Tempe Campus

published April 5, 2012, 12:03 pm

ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) has published online a self-guided sustainability initiatives tour of the Tempe campus. The walking tour is 1.2 miles and consists of a variety of examples of ASU’s collective movements to comprise a university-wide approach at maintaining and improving our efforts in sustainability. Included in the tour are LEED-certified buildings, energy storage technology, solar installations, sustainable dining programs, and more. The tour begins at the Memorial Union (MU) and weaves around campus to 10 specific points of interest, though the map also identifies additional locations to visit including sustainable gardens and green events around campus.

Some of the highlights I found were at the Apache Boulevard parking structure, an edifice that generates a whopping 880 KW of solar power from its panels. The Coor Hall was equally fruitful. I went to the top floor of the Coor Hall and stood in the sitting area to gaze across the ASU campus. It offered views of the solar panels on top of the Hayden Library, Payne Hall, Farmer, and the covered walkway between Payne and Farmer. So much solar!


As part of ASU’s Waste Management System, compactors are used to accept trash and recycling products like paper, metal, aerosol cans, etc. It has reduced fossil fuel emissions and waste-handling costs. Additionally, the compactors run on solar power. Prior to this tour, I had no idea this was even on campus.


The tour offers an abundant supply of sustainable movements happening on ASU’s campus. See photo highlights in slideshow.

ASU recently reached 14.5 MW of solar power with projections forecasting 17 MW by the end of 2012 and 20 MW by 2014. ASU has also been nominated for a Planet Forward “Climate Leadership Award” for being a living solar laboratory (voting ends April 14, 2012). Additionally, GIOS is a very recent recipient of a $27.5 million grant to increase these initiatives.

As is apparent from the numerous milestones and continuing accolades, ASU is leading an unprecedented effort in sustainability initiatives. This post is only meant to be a small preview. Take the tour to allow yourself the opportunity to discover ASU’s sustainability efforts!

*Note: AzCATI, though featured in the above video, is located at the ASU Polytechnic campus. You may schedule a tour of the groundbreaking algae biofuel facilities.

Congratulations GIOS and ASU!

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

AzCATI Grand Opening: The World’s Largest Algae Biofuel Test Bed Blooms in the Arizona Desert

published March 14, 2012, 1:26 pm

AzCATI grand opening 012

On February 21, 2012, ASU’s Polytechnic Campus celebrated the Grand Opening of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), an expansion that includes an 80,000 gallon capacity on a 2-acre site, making it the world’s largest test bed. There were over 100 guests and a noteworthy line up of speakers (listed here in order of appearance):

  • Gary Dirks, Director of ASU LightWorks
  • Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, Sr. Vice President of ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development
  • Governor Janice Brewer, State of Arizona
  • Mayor Scott Smith, City of Mesa
  • Bill Harris, President and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona
  • Mitzi Montoya, Vice Provost and Dean of ASU College of Technology and Innovation
  • Dan Simon, President and CEO of Heliae Development, LLC

Gary Dirks opened the ceremony, standing at a podium between two silently bubbling tubes, one filled with maroon-colored algae, the other gold (ASU’s colors). He welcomed the crowd to the celebration of a facility where the research and commercial development of algae will provide “a real economic opportunity” for Arizona. He thanked speakers for their support of AzCATI and the innovative research happening at the center.

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan thanked state leadership for their continued support of AzCATI’s groundbreaking biofuel research in algae technology. “This is an excellent example of Michael Crow’s vision of the New American University,” he said, highlighting the university’s initiatives in innovation and entrepreneurship. He discussed the way in which AzCATI is creating both a physical and intellectual environment for algae research, development, and commercialization.

Governor Brewer, an early supporter of AzCATI’s research, took a golf cart tour of the facilities with AzCATI Co-Director Dr. Milton Sommerfeld and Mitzi Montoya earlier that morning. Brewer discussed Arizona’s potential to be a national and global leader in algae research and biotechnology, saying, “AzCATI is a hub of algae-based research.” She talked about the lab’s potential to reduce national fossil fuel dependence; for green job growth, cleaner air and water; and the creation of valuable products for both human and animal usage. Brewer noted that she wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona added an “A” to its five C’s and was excited to be discussing such innovative Arizona-grown research during the year of the state’s centennial.“It’s a fantastic vision,” she said, “and I’m proud to say I played a small part in it. It’s wonderful to see this center blossom.” Brewer previously approved $2 million in research funding for AzCATI and was given the honor of cutting the ribbon during the Grand Opening ceremony.

AzCATI grand opening 071 

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith focused on the need to change the way we view and use energy in the future. He discussed the need to find ways to improve the economy and to improve the world. In his view, AzCATI is doing that very thing. “There are no small dreams here. There are no small goals. We want to change the world,” he said.

Science Foundation Arizona’s President and CEO, Bill Harris, highlighted a constant issue with universities not translating their research into economic value and the way ASU is continually “breaking down barriers” by creating and contributing to much needed economic diversity. He talked about the importance of university collaboration with industry to develop usable products. “This state is uniquely positioned for this kind of work,” he said.

Mitzi Montoya talked about her excitement about the lab’s ability to "bridge the gap between science and technology" so effectively. Following in line with Harris’ observations, Montoya highlighted the facilities unique strengths in the Arizona desert. In the backdrop of a typically clear-blue, sunny sky, “We have something not everyone can copy,” she said. “We want the Polytechnic Campus to be a legend for innovation.”

Dan Simon, the final speaker of the event, reminisced on his research days at AzCATI. “Heliae was born right there behind you in that building." He showered Co-Directors Dr. Milton Sommerfeld and Dr. Qiang Hu with accolades, calling them “the fathers of this center.” He also noted that AzCATI has had a leading role in creating “a global epicenter of algae technology.” Before closing, he asked the audience to support HB 2225 and HB 2226, the two house bills that seek to classify algaculture as agriculture.

The expanded facilities will provide local partners with space, material, and equipment for algae production—partners like algae research company Heliae, a sort of graduate of AzCATI’s algae program. Researchers say that algal biofuel could be a prevalent energy source within the next ten years. The ultimate goal, they say, is to reduce national dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. The new facilities will increase production, capacity, and availability of research biomass—potentially drawing further collaboration and partnerships from other companies and research organizations.

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Slideshows and video of the event and expanded facilities:


AzCATI Grand Opening Ceremony from Keith Jennings on Vimeo.

Related Posts

ASU and UA Team Up on ARID Raceway Algae Test Bed

Algae Farming and Arizona Agricultural Laws 

AZ = Algae

ASU Doctoral Student Uses Harvested Algae to Produce Sustainable Fertilizer

Horizon Interview with Milt Sommerfeld and Dan Rees on Arizona’s Biofuel Industry

Algae Cookies: A Sweet Solution for Harvested Algae 

ASU Energy Club Students Speak Up About “Arizona’s Energy Future”

published February 28, 2012, 9:09 am

On February 2nd, the ASU Energy Club partnered with Arizona Town Hall, bringing an ASU energy-concerned student presence to their “Arizona’s Energy Future” road show as part of their inaugural town hall event. Stemming from the Youth Town Hall discussion on October 12th, which was open to all college and high school students across the state, this event was created to further address student concerns and provide them with an outlet to express their opinions on the future of energy in Arizona. Several students from varying backgrounds joined in on the conversation and spoke with the panelists about what they thought Arizona’s Energy Future should look like.


(From left to right: Mike Zirulnik, moderator. Panel: Jen Fuller, Leisa Brug, and Clark Miller)

One of the three panel members was Clark Miller, ASU professor and associate director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. Second was Jen Fuller, second year ASU PhD student studying Environmental Social Sciences. Lastly, Leisa Brug, the director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, was a member of the panel as well.

Following discussions from the Youth Town Hall in October and the recommendations made in the 99th Annual AZ Town Hall Background Report, members of the ASU Energy Club identified a few questions and concerns that they wanted to address during this discussion. Major topics and points are included below:

Career Paths for Energy Focused Students

With the growing number of students becoming involved and interested in the future of energy, students from the ASU Energy Club wanted to know how Arizona should develop career paths for students who are interested in entering the energy industry. As the discussion and brainstorming continued, it was a general consensus that partnerships need to be made between education and industry, thus creating a bridge for students to easily enter the energy industry after getting their education.

Competition and Innovation in the Arizona Energy Industry

Competition within the energy industry is necessary, as it encourages innovation and progress, but Arizona must foster these two elements so as to create a sustainable energy economy. Enthusiasm should be given towards “garage innovation,” perhaps providing spaces that operate like HeatSync (a community workspace that is free to the public for use on a variety of projects). Barriers within the energy industry will only slow the process and discourage innovation. Leisa Brug also made the suggestion that renewable sources be willing to work with traditional energy sources and involve them in the discussion because Arizona is still heavily dependent on sources like coal, oil, and nuclear. She noted that alienation will only slow the transition process.

State Leaders and Engagement in Energy Policy

Representatives expressed concern over the lack of student interest in energy. In this day and age, energy is becoming a growing topic and it is important that the younger generation is actively engaged in it. As the leaders of the future, younger generations must find ways to stay involved, but it is also up to state leaders to get the younger generation engaged in energy policy. Discussions offered suggestions of providing more legislative transparency, making information easily open to the public through social media, websites, etc. Leisa Brug encouraged students and citizens alike to attend solar task force meetings (agendas can be found here). Another student stated that if citizens aren’t happy with policies in place, they can create petitions and propose ballot measures.

Spreading the Word

One lingering questions was: “How can we push renewable energy further and get more people involved?” Students at the Town Hall responded that we should be looking into Germany for example, though Leisa Brug noted that a comparison between Arizona and Germany reveals vastly different prices for energy, which played a factor in their move to renewables. Many students agreed that with Arizona’s solar potential, we should essentially be the leader in solar production, installation, and incentives for renewable energy sources. We should all, as individuals, be involved with government officials and become a part of these new energy policies. Educating and encouraging others to join our efforts is the most powerful way to spread the word about renewable energy throughout all generations.

Reflections and Conclusion

Jen Fuller opened the panel with a statement detailing her experience at the 99th Annual Town Hall in the Grand Canyon last fall. She expressed shock at one oil representative’s lack of concern over the social and environmental impacts caused by some of the practices of oil industry. They were, as he stated, “not his problem.” She expressed dismay at this feeling of lack of responsibility.

Clark Miller noted that “there are between 10 and 100 times too few students in this room,” and that it was a problem. “This is your future,” he said, “and you need to own it.” Miller encouraged students to be involved and bring their expertise to ACC meetings, elections, campaigns, etc.

Leisa Brug concurred on civic engagement and education. She echoed Fuller and Miller when she noted that education on current energy issues is a social responsibility.

David Butterfield, Chairman of Hummingbird Urban Biomass, attended the event and discussed how his generation, and particularly the youth, was heavily involved in the politics of Vietnam. He said that the current energy situation is, in his opinion, “this generation’s Vietnam,” and he expressed concern over the ambivalence and indifference that seems to plague most of today’s youth in regard to the energy discussion.

As part of the “Youth Town Hall” discussions, follow up reports will be forthcoming from Arizona Town Hall. To learn more about Arizona Town Hall visit To learn more about the ASU Energy Club or to become a member visit

Co-Written by Tynnisha Hamilton and Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

ASU Venture Catalyst Launches Rapid Startup School

published February 16, 2012, 11:26 am

Photo Credit: ASU

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives at ASU, but sometimes students find it rather frustrating when they lack the tools and resources to let their creativity and innovation shine. ASU Venture Catalyst aims to fix just that. The Catalyst is the all-in-one resource center for graduate students, alumni, and faculty at ASU who seek assistance in the planning and implementation of their venture. ASU is rapidly evolving into a gathering area for young entrepreneurs, and the Catalyst is leveraging this opportunity and providing inventors and innovators with the ultimate opportunity to get their venture off the ground.

Starting February 21st, ASU Venture Catalyst will be offering a part-time 8 week program for postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, alumni, and junior faculty who are interested in the creation of a new venture.

This program, Rapid Startup School, is “The pracademic school for understanding entrepreneurship that’s not really a school.”

The program is taught by faculty from partner organizations and works like a hybrid class, where online modules are used to complement the program modules and accelerate the learning process. The program is designed so that participants can continue to learn and work on their projects and ideas outside of class.

During the 7 to 8 weeks that this program will be taking place, there will be a 2-3 hour session once or twice a week. The program starts with an introductory session, followed by 12 modules, and a one-on-one meeting that will be held at the conclusion of the program.

During the program, participants will learn the essentials of entrepreneurship and new business creation. They receive extensive training in:

  • Innovation
  • Commercialization
  • Business finance
  • Intellectual property, patents, trademarks, and copywriting laws
  • Market feasibility
  • Market research
  • …and more

Rapid Startup School is an excellent way for potential entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door and learn more about how to create a successful business. ASU Venture Catalyst has helped many students, faculty, and alumni to network and better understand and develop their business ideas. Participating in this program will allow participants to improve the probability of their and their businesses success.

More information on the dates and topics as well as RSVP info can be found here:

Written by Tynnisha Hamilton, ASU LightWorks

Algae Farming and Arizona Agricultural Laws

published February 15, 2012, 2:16 pm

Anticipating the growth and success of algae farming in Arizona, Tucson lawmaker Rep. Matt Heinz of Arizona District 29 has introduced two bills (HB 2225 and HB 2226), sponsored by Rep. Russ Jones of Arizona District 24, that will commercialize and tax alga-culture like any other farm-produced product and allow Arizona universities to continue research in biofuel technologies.

Photo Credit: ASU News

So, what is “alga-culture?” Alga-culture is essentially algae farming; it is the process of raising algae, a microscopic plant that creates biomass from photosynthetic processes, and then converting the biomass into hydrogen or biofuel. HB 2225 would redefine agricultural land use to include alga-culture for the sole purpose of research, development, and production of commercial biofuels on state trust land—land that is intended to benefit public schools and institutions. HB 2226 would widen the tax definitions of agricultural real property by including lands dedicated to alga-culture, making property that is used for raising algae taxable land. To clarify, the bills cover only the cultivation aspects of algae production, not the oil extracting processes associated with the production of biofuel.

Alga-culture does not yet have a strong presence in Arizona, but with the innovative and exciting research taking place at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and a few new organizations like Gilbert-based Heliae, a company that produces algae-based jet fuel, there is a growing awareness of the potential energy solutions algae provide. HB 2225 and HB 2226 would better enable research endeavors for institutions like Arizona State University (ASU), home of the state-of-the-art AzCATI research facility, and University of Arizona (UA), who have already begun collaborating with ASU on the ARID Raceway algae test bed system. Find out more about the partnership and funding sources in a previous post we wrote on the ARID Raceway.  

Both of these bills provide a great opportunity for Arizona’s economy, education, and energy infrastructure. If these bills pass, alga-culture will be more attractive to farmers because production costs will be cheaper, and university research will be more appealing to potential investors.  Both Rep. Jones and UA researcher Peter Waller discussed that incorporating algae farming into the commercial agriculture industry would create both an alternate, renewable energy source and Arizona-based jobs. Milton Sommerfeld, an ASU researcher located at AzCATI and director of ASU’s Laboratory of Algae Research and Biotechnology (LARB), noted that alga-culture laws would open Arizona’s agricultural landscape, produce local jobs, and attract leading industry in related fields.

Sommerfeld said, Algae is a crop. You have the same types of problems and challenges as you do with other crops. You’ve got to have good seed material and good technology to be able to process it. You have to have a place where you can grow it.”

Sommerfeld noted that though he thinks it’s possible algae-based fuels could be available to purchase at gas stations in as little as 2022, the research and capabilities to commercialize it depend on the support and commitment of both government and industry.

While the bills have almost unanimous bipartisan support, one lawmaker, Rep. Frank Pratt of Arizona District 23 and chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, voted against HB 2225 on account of it being “premature.” He reasons that while algae farming may gain momentum as a potential future energy source, Arizona has not yet produced the alga-culture operations necessary to require a broadening of agricultural land use.

“We’re making a bill for an industry that does not exist,” he said.

However, the news has been rife in recent months with airplanes completing successful flights using fuel sources made at least in part with algae-based jet fuels. Here are just some of the airlines and their success stories: Continental (LA Times), United (CNN Money), American and Alaskan (Inhabitat). Sapphire Energy, Solazyme, Dynamic Fuels, Origin Oil, and Arizona’s own Heliae are just some of the companies that have developed partnerships to continue producing algae-based fuels.  It seems there is, in fact, a very real and growing algae-fuel industry that Arizona, given its climate and research capabilities, should be in the forefront of developing and utilizing.

Additionally, AzCATI has just expanded its alga-culture production facilities and is now the world’s largest algae test bed facility in any university or national lab. The Grand Opening will be held on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 (RSVP required). Governor Jan Brewer, a supporter of algae research at AzCATI, will attend as a speaker and participant in the ribbon cutting ceremony. There will be additional speakers, facility tours, and the opportunity to speak with some of the researchers.

LightWorks will be present at the AzCATI Grand Opening ceremony. We will be live tweeting using the hashtag #AzCATI. Tune in on February 21st for updates!

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

LightSpeed Solutions is Setting Out to Change the Way the World Views Energy

published February 13, 2012, 10:21 am

For quite some time, people from all over the country—industry leaders, experts in the field, students, researchers, protestors, and every day citizens—have had one goal in mind. A few years ago, this goal seemed light years away, but now its arms length away.

What do they want? Sunlight to Fuels.

When do they want it? In the next 10-15 years.

LightSpeed Solutions is a team dedicated to discovering a more sustainable future and includes researchers, scientists, engineers, and experts in the field at various universities and laboratories. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including electro-chemistry, mass transport, economics, policy, systems engineering, heat, photo-catalysis, and much more. Major partners include Arizona State University, Princeton University, Yale University, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of Minnesota.

Leading the team is Gary Dirks, director of LightSpeed Solutions. With a doctorate in chemistry and extensive experience in the energy field, Gary is leading his team to a clean and successful future. In addition to guiding the LightSpeed Solutions team, Gary also is the director of ASU LightWorks, a multidisciplinary effort to leverage ASU's unique strenPhoto Credit: LightSpeed Solutionsgths, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.

Creating fuels from the power of the sun is not simple task, that’s why LightSpeed Solutions is comprised of people with a passion for moving our world into energy independence and creating a brighter future for generations to come.

Using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, the team hopes to produce clean transportation fuel and commercialize it, in hopes that it will be able to compete with fossil fuels. They took the basic concept of photosynthesis and applied it to fuels, generating a cleaner fuel that can power the world in the years to come. This revolutionary science is a breakthrough in the energy industry, and as this team continues to convert their passion in sustainability into fuel for the future, more doors will be opened and solutions found.

Download this PDF to learn more about LightSpeed Solutions:

Contact Information for LightSpeed Solutions:


Contact Page:


Written by Tynnisha Hamilton, ASU LightWorks

An Interview with Mark Sholin, Founder and CEO of Arbsource

published February 8, 2012, 2:55 pm

Wastewater treatment in the US has become an issue for many businesses, big and small. Mark Sholin, the founder and CEO of Arbsource, created a solution to that problem. As part of the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, Arbsource was created to relieve the burden of wastewater treatment and create a more sustainable, cost-friendly way to go about it.

 Photo Credit: Arbsource

Just recently, Arbsource was named one of the top 12 clean tech companies to watch in 2012 by ZDNet. They are constantly growing and building new partnerships. In an interview with Mark Sholin, he gives us a more in depth look at Arbsource. Our questions and his responses are below:

What grants/investments have you received since the start of Arbsource?

Arbsource has won competitive grant awards from the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative, Cleantech Open, Idea2Product Global Competition, NCIIA, and Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge. Other development dollars granted to ASU by the Office of Naval Research also contribute to our R&D. We are still pre-revenue, so leveraging non-dilutive sources of capital is a high priority as we continue scaling our reactors. In the spirit of this strategy, we have other grant/competition submissions pending over the next few months on the order of $500,000 combined capital and have high hopes for success.

How does the ARBCell Biotechnology compare to other wastewater treatment systems?

The ARBCell is being developed to meet the same treatment speeds and quality as conventional methods, but at half the operations cost. We can achieve this by using a special class of bacteria, called Anode Respiring Bacteria (ARB for short), that work in conjunction with our unique reactor design to deliver identical treatment while using up to 70% less energy and producing up to 80% fewer solid sludge byproducts. Additionally, we create hydrogen gas as a value added byproduct that sees wide use in many industries.

 Photo Credit: Arbsource

How would you describe the team at Arbsource?

Our management team is comparatively young for most cleantech ventures, but we are passionate about our cause and have already collected relevant technical and market perspectives from prior work experience. We’re bolstered by a highly knowledgeable and experienced advisory board in both business strategy and technology development. Researchers at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, housed within the Biodesign Institute, are the brains behind the development of our ARBCell prototypes, giving us an extra layer of credibility among potential customers and investors.

How would you like to see your company expand?

Over the next year, we will be working diligently to build out our proof-of-concept pilots that will be placed in the processing facilities of different early customers to treat small portions of wastewater. From there, we expect to be ready to offer full-scale treatment systems in early 2013. Forging strong relationships with engineering design consultants specializing in commercial wastewater is key to nationwide deployment, some of which we have already contracted with. Recent connections we’ve made are also interested in pushing the ARBCell to countries outside the US, namely India.

Arbsource recently took second place in the Idea2Product (I2P) global startup competition based in Stockholm, Sweden. I2P has also made available a video, so you can watch Mark Sholin’s pitch to judges followed by a Q&A session.  

Get connected with this exciting and innovative new venture!

Written by Tynnisha Hamilton, ASU LightWorks

Cognitive Barriers and Energy Efficiency

published February 5, 2012, 10:26 pm

On Wednesday November 30, 2011, Dr. Elke U. Weber gave a talk at ASU’s Tempe campus entitled “Our Energy-Efficiency Paradox: Psychological Barriers to ‘No-Brainer’ Solutions.” Dr. Weber is the Founder and Co-Director of the Center for the Decision Sciences (CDS) and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) and is Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business at Columbia University.

During the talk, Dr. Weber highlighted psychological reasons for the way we paradoxically hesitate to adopt more energy-efficient, sustainable, environmentally-friendly methods of living on a large scale when they seem to be “no-brainer” solutions to our culminating energy-related issues. Weber argued that by learning to recognize and thus identify these psychological issues, we will be able to overcome these cognitive limitations and adopt what she calls “win-win-win” solutions.

Weber started off by listing a variety of energy-related solutions that seemingly go undeveloped, are under-represented, and are underrated. Rather than trying to find solutions to each of these issues, she argues that they are related. They are symptomatic of a larger cognitive problem, and until the cognitive problem is addressed, the symptoms will continue to present themselves socially and culturally in a variety of ways.

Some of these issues are a marketing problem, stemming from language and negative perceptions of words. One example Weber used was the way surveys revealed that more surveyors are opposed to a “carbon tax” rather than a “carbon offset” even though descriptions provided to surveyors were identical to each other. The word “tax,” especially for an American group, carries a more negative connotation, and when it is used, it triggers a cognitive act of arguing against oneself in favor of the opposing side (in this case, no carbon tax).

Weber used the audience in an example of one psychological experiment. You can test yourself before continuing on in this post to see what results you produce. Read the instructions below before playing the video.

In this video is a group of students passing two basketballs back and forth; some are wearing black shirts and the others are wearing white shirts. Pay attention only to the students in white shirts. Count the number of times they pass the ball to each other, whether they bounce pass the ball or they pass it without bouncing it. You may now watch the video

When finished, continue below.

How many passes did you count? There should be 15. Did you see the gorilla?

This video showcases the “Selective Attention Test,” and is the result of a Harvard study done some years ago. Half of the responders in the Harvard study saw the gorilla. Similar results were produced in Weber’s audience. What this experiment reveals is that not only are we missing much of what goes on around us but that we also have no idea how much we are missing. This offers one explanation as to why these energy-efficiency no-brainer solutions go unutilized when they seem so blatantly obvious. As Weber noted in her talk, we are facing lots of invisible gorillas. You can read more about the Invisible Gorilla Experiment here.

Overall, it was a fascinating and insightful look at the psychology of environmental, sustainable, and energy-related issues and solutions. It allowed a new way of investigating the complexity of the “green mindset.”

Dr. Weber is part of an interdisciplinary group of decision scientists, economists, and psychologists who are exploring reasons why the brain has such a hard time being “green.” So far, their findings may be just as crucial or more so than technological advances to address energy-related issues and sustainability. You can read an in-depth account of their findings and opinions in this article featured in the New York Times: "Why Isn't the Brain Green?"


Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks