UC Merced's Nonimaging Optics Lab Receives $2 Million Gift

Donation will expand the university's work in clean, renewable energy

MERCED - The University of California, Merced, has received a $2 million gift from the California Community Foundation (CCF) to support the university's Nonimaging Optics (NIO) Lab, a facility developing new technologies that are improving the potential for solar resources to supply a substantial fraction of the world's energy needs.

"UC Merced is proud to be a leader in solar concentration research, and this magnificent gift will solidify that position," said Dean Jeff Wright of the School of Engineering. "Our Nonimaging Optics Lab has already gained worldwide recognition as a leader in this field, and this funding will enable even more rapid innovation."

Nonimaging optics is concerned with collecting, concentrating, transporting and distributing light energy in applications such as solar energy, signal detection, illumination optics, and measurement and testing. Nonimaging optics can concentrate sunlight to extremely high levels with greatly improved operational efficiencies over traditional designs. This research will enable more effective solar energy generation technologies in the future.

UC Merced's NIO Lab - a cornerstone of the planned Merced Energy Research Institute - is the brainchild of Professor Roland Winston, a world-renowned physicist and the founder of the field of nonimaging optics. Winston and his team of researchers are engineering new concentrator designs that will make solar energy more efficient and more affordable to implement, which may benefit California and ultimately serve the entire world in search of clean, renewable energy.

The gift from CCF, a Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization, recognizes the contributions that Winston and UC Merced's NIO Lab have made and continue to make to the solar energy industry. It will serve as a catalyst for numerous NIO Lab research projects by providing research infrastructure, student support and international linkages with the top energy engineers and scientists around the world.

"Our lab is very grateful that CCF has recognized the potential of nonimaging optics to help alleviate global energy woes," Winston said. "The support provided by such a large gift will enable us to move forward rapidly with new energy innovation in the coming years and will empower us to train the next generation of students in nonimaging optics."

Winston, working with students and colleagues, has applied the field of nonimaging optics to a variety of problems in radiation detection, illumination and solar energy concentration.

"Professor Roland Winston was recruited to UC Merced to create a world class program in solar energy," said Maria Pallavicini, dean of the School of Natural Sciences. "Not only is he developing innovative approaches for solar concentration, but he is training the next generation of researchers in nonimaging optics. This generous gift from the CCF will ensure that the legacy Professor Winston has begun will continue."

"Dr. Winston is absolutely committed to energy innovation and educating technical leaders to shape our energy future," Wright said. "We are so fortunate to have such visionary scholars and educators at this exciting new university."

Winston is jointly appointed in the schools of Natural Science and Engineering at UC Merced. He joined UC Merced as a founding faculty member in 2003 and holds the UC Presidential Endowed Chair.

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