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Tonio Buonassisi

Tonio Buonassisi

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Room 35-213
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307
Phone: 617-324-5130  
Fax: 617-253-1556  

Research Interests

Photovoltaics (solar energy conversion), predictive process simulation, defects, multiscale characterization (synchrotron), photoelectrochemistry


Teaching Interests

Fundamentals of Photovoltaics 2.626 (grad), 2.627 (ug)

Mechanics and Materials 2.001 (ug)


Education, Professional Experience & Spin-Offs

2012–Present, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

2008, Co-founder, Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems

2007–2012, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

2005–2007, R&D Scientist, Evergreen Solar Inc., Marlborough, MA

2006, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley (AS&T)

2004: Max-Planck-Institute for Microstructure Physics Halle, visiting scientist

2002, 2003: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, visiting scientist

2001, B.S., University of Notre Dame (Applied Physics)


Conference Organization

2013, Session co-chair, IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference

2011, Chair, 5th International Workshop on Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells, Chair

2011, Session co-chair, American Physical Society March Meeting

2008, Chair, Workshop Modernizing Photovoltaics Education at the University Level

Scientific planning committees: NREL Workshop on Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells; International Workshop on Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells; Gettering and Defect Engineering in Semiconductor Technology (GADEST)


PI Honors & Awards

2012, NSF CAREER Award

2012, BOSCH Energy Research Network Award

2010, MIT-Deshpande Center Award

2008, MIT Energy Initiative Seed Grant

2008, SMA Career Development Assistant Professor in Manufacturing

2005, European Materials Research Society (E-MRS) Young Scientist Presentation Award

2004, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Graduate Research Fellowship

2002–2005, National Renewable Energy Laboratory Graduate Student Award


Select Group Honors & Awards

2012, 2nd Place, de Florez Engineering Design Award Competition

2012, 2nd Place, David Adler Memorial M.Eng Thesis Award

2011, Best Presentation Award, GADEST Conference

2010, Best Poster Award, E-MRS Spring Meeting



Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, heads an interdisciplinary laboratory focused on photovoltaics (solar energy conversion into electricity). Prof. Buonassisi completed his Ph.D. in Applied Science and Technology at UC Berkeley, with additional research at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the Max-Planck-Institute for Microstructure Physics. Buonassisi's thesis research revealed the chemical natures of metal defects in multicrystalline silicon solar cell materials using synchrotron microprobe techniques, which contributed to the founding of solar start-up Calisolar (now Silicor Materials).


After his Ph.D., Buonassisi broadened his research focus from materials to devices. At Evergreen Solar Inc., he applied his defect-engineering techniques to improve performance and yield of ribbon silicon solar cell manufacturing, while a member of the team that brought a new crystal growth platform into production. Since founding his MIT research group in 2007, Prof. Buonassisi invents, develops, and applies defect-engineering techniques over the entire solar cell process, from crystal growth to modules, improving the cost effectiveness of commercial and next-generation solar cells. Prof. Buonassisi is motivated to bring science-driven breakthroughs into industry, and co-founded the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, MA with this intent.


Prof. Buonassisi is an author of 139 journal, conference, and workshop articles focused on PV, and has delivered 116 invited talks and plenary/oral presentations on his work throughout the world. His work has been honored with awards including the European Materials Research Society Young Scientist Presentation Award, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Graduate Research Fellowship, MIT-Deshpande Center Award, and NSF CAREER Award.


Research Highlights

Developed defect-engineering techniques to mitigate performance impact of iron impurities in solar-grade crystalline silicon; transitioned processes to industry, enabling lower-cost, higher-performance devices

Advanced synchrotron-based characterization techniques of solar cells, including nanoscale in-situ measurements and sub-100 nm X-ray fluorescence, to elucidate the nanostructure and evolution of performance-limiting defects in commercial solar cells during realistic processing conditions

Developed silicon-based solar-cell architecture to enable solar water splitting in neutral pH; developed model to predict performance limits

Elucidated structure-property-process relationships in laser-hyperdoped silicon using synchrotron-based characterization techniques, enabling sub-bandgap room-temperature photoresponse

Applied defect-engineering principles to Earth-abundant thin-film solar-cell materials to enhance cell efficiencies

Developed bottom-up cost models and technology pathway assessments for crystalline silicon PV

Co-founded the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE)

Developed widely accepted scientific model concerning impurity management in PV-grade silicon, with 85 citations to 2005 Nature Materials paper

Co-developed spectrally-resolved X-ray beam induced current technique to measure impact of impurities on performance

Developed technologies, patent that led to founding of Calisolar, Inc. (now Silicor Materials)

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MITMassachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Mechanical Engineering, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 3-173, Cambridge MA 02139