Thorsten Trupke holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Karlsruhe in Germany and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. His research and commercial activities are in the area of Photovoltaics, which is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity. His specific expertise is in the characterisation of silicon materials and silicon devices, with emphasis on the development of novel advanced luminescence based methods. Photoluminescence imaging methods and systems, which he co-invented, are used in R&D institutes and in high volume solar cell manufacturing worldwide.
Thorsten was recently recognised by Engineers Australia as the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year.
What is your current job title and function?
Thorsten is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at BT Imaging, Sydney based company, which he co-founded in 2007 as a start-up out of the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He also is a Professor at the School for Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, UNSW, where he runs a research team of approximately 8 - 10 postdocs and PhD students.
Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
My original education/training is actually primarily in Physics. The specific field of Photovoltaics is highly multidisciplinary, with elements of Chemistry, Physics, material science and many others, but obviously also has a strong Electrical Engineering component. The attraction of working on this challenging topic is the above multidisciplinary aspect, combined with the positive impact that our work ultimately has on the environment and thereby on society, which is a very strong motivation to work in this space.
What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The journey of taking PL imaging from a “wild idea”, via detailed proof of concept studies at UNSW through to a high end commercial product, the latter manufactured by our own company in Australia has been an exciting and at times extremely challenging ride.
What does winning the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award mean to you?
Winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Award is a recognition of the efforts of a large number of people at UNSW and at BT Imaging. In particular Robert Bardos and Ian Maxwell have been instrumental in this success and share equally in this award. It represents a strong motivation for our team to continuously move this great technology forward and explore new areas of applications.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you like to have with you?
- Obviously my family (if that counts as a “thing”), that would make even being on a desert island fun, at least for a while…!
- Speedos and googles (I really like swimming)
- A Satellite phone (powered by solar cells) to call someone to take us home (when we get thirsty).
What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Getting young people motivated and excited about engineering, which includes creating attractive job prospects in Australia.
If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpower to be?
Foresee the future.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Who is your hero?
Anyone, who masters the challenges they set for themselves.
What makes you laugh?
Many things, including my family, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Jim Carrey