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$1m award for inventor of cheap solar cells

Michael Grätzel, the inventor of a technology to produce cheap solar panels, has won the prestigious Millennium Technology award.

Grätzel, the director of the laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the Lausanne Federal Technology Institute, received his $1 million prize last night at an event in Helsinki, reports the BBC.

Grätzel invented a type of solar cell based on nanotechnology, which uses juice squeezed from berries. The juice contains a natural dye called anthocyanin that contains molecules similar to chlorophyll, the substance responsible for photosynthesis in plants.

Grätzel cells harness a photovoltaic process similar to photosynthesis to generate electric current from sunlight. The cells can be used to power devices such as street lights.

The Millennium Technology Award is presented by the government of Finland and the Technology Academy of Finland, based in Helsinki. It is given to researchers who develop technologies to better human existence.

Receiving his award, an elated Grätzel said he would use the prize money to further his research.

Dr Ainomaija Haarla, President of Technology Academy of Finland, said: "Grätzel's innovation is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy."

THINQ readers who fancy making their own eco-friendly Grätzel cell can follow the instructions given here.