Future of Electricity

Monday 1:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. - Potomac A

Dr. Howard Branz, Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Timothy Heidel, Assistant Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Mark Johnson, Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Karma Sawyer, Assistant Program Director, ARPA-E

Dr. Howard Branz
Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Howard Branz Photo

Dr. Howard Branz currently serves as a Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His program focuses will include solar and other renewable energy technologies.

Dr. Branz is on assignment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), where he is a Research Fellow in the National Center for Photovoltaics. At NREL Branz has studied the materials science and optical and electronic properties of photovoltaic, electrochromic, memory-switching, and photoelectrochemical devices. Branz has also served as leader of NREL’s Amorphous Silicon Team, and the Silicon Materials and Devices Group. In 1998, Branz proposed and published the hydrogen collision model of light-induced metastable degradation in amorphous silicon. In 2011, a team led by Branz developed a confirmed 18.2% efficient nanostructured black silicon solar cell This black silicon technology is now being commercialized by the startup, Natcore Technology. Branz also led a cooperative research initiative that launched a venture-capital-funded start-up, Ampulse Corp. Ampulse is using an NREL-developed hot-wire chemical vapor deposition process to grow epitaxial silicon photovoltaics on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's inexpensive biaxially-textured rolled-metal (RABiTS) foil. Branz has published more than 110 papers in refereed scientific journals and has about 20 U.S. patents issued or pending.

Dr. Branz received his B.A. in Physics from Brandeis University and his Ph. D. in Solid-State Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he completed his thesis on hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) growth, transport physics, and devices.

Dr. Timothy Heidel
Assistant Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Timothy Heidel Photo

Dr. Tim Heidel is an Assistant Program Director and is focused on new approaches for controlling and optimizing the transmission and delivery of electric power. He is also investigating the reliable and cost-effective integration of renewable power generation and ways to accelerate the growth of demand response technologies.

Prior to joining ARPA-E, Dr. Heidel was a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT and served as the Research Director for MIT’s 2011 “Future of the Electric Grid” study. He coordinated the research efforts of more than 20 faculty and students from economics, policy, and electrical engineering on the most important challenges and opportunities that are likely to face the U.S. electric grid between now and 2030.

Dr. Heidel completed his PhD. in Electrical Engineering at MIT, where he worked in the Soft Semiconductor Group under the supervision of Dr. Marc Baldo. He demonstrated new device architectures for organic photovoltaic devices inspired by photosynthesis. These devices exhibited increased light absorption and improved charge separation efficiency. Dr. Heidel also completed an M.S. in the Technology and Policy Program at MIT where he studied the economic and emissions benefits of coupling energy storage and photovoltaics. During graduate school, Dr. Heidel held a variety of leadership roles in the student energy community at MIT. He served as Managing Director for the MIT Energy Conference and as a Co-President of the MIT Energy Club.

Dr. Heidel received S.B. and M.Eng degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and spent a year studying electrical engineering at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Dr. Mark Johnson
Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Mark Johnson Photo

Dr. Mark Johnson leads ARPA-E’s Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage (GRIDS) program, which targets disruptive grid-level stationary energy storage technologies.

Dr. Johnson joined ARPA-E on assignment from NC State University, where he previously served as the Director of Industry and Innovation Programs for the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center, a National Science Foundation Gen-III Engineering Research Center focused on the convergence of power electronics, energy storage, renewable resource integration and information technology for electric power distribution.

Dr. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering as well as Director of Engineering for the Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (TEC) Program at NC State. His work has focused at the intersection of smart-grid, renewable energy, wide band-gap semiconductor materials and devices, communications and photonics technologies; as well as entrepreneurship, technology transfer, and public-private partnership formation. Johnson has been a successful entrepreneur, playing a critical role in the early-stage formation of Quantum Epitaxial Designs, EPI MBE Systems, and Nitronex.

Dr. Johnson holds a B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, both in Materials Science and Engineering.

Dr. Karma Sawyer
Assistant Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Karma Sawyer Photo

Dr. Karma Sawyer is an Assistant Program Director and is responsible for the ARPA-E’s Innovative Materials and Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT) program. In addition to CO2 capture technologies, Dr. Sawyer is interested in zero-carbon emissions, O2 separation technologies and thermal storage.

Dr. Sawyer originally joined ARPA-E as a fellow in 2010, where she performed technical, environmental and economic assessment of CO2 capture, utilization and sequestration, methods for direct natural gas to liquids conversion and thermal storage. Prior to joining ARPA-E, Sawyer worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where she studied phonon localization in silicon nanowires for thermoelectric applications and direct air CO2 capture as a member of the editorial committee for a technology assessment for the American Physical Society Panel on Public Affairs.

Sawyer was named a AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellow at ARPA-E (2010)and a fellow at the American Chemical Society–Petroleum Research Fund Summer School as part of the “Probing Dynamics of Liquids and Biomolecules” program (2006). She has authored ten publications and fifteen conference proceedings in the areas of energy, physical chemistry and materials science.

Dr. Sawyer received a B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Syracuse University. She received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2008, focusing on spin-crossover dynamics and homogeneous catalysis reactions using ultrafast infrared spectroscopy and density functional theory (DFT) calculations.