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Gary DirksSunlight represents the ultimate power source, yet existing technologies tap only a small fraction of light’s potential. ASU has unique strengths in the area of light-inspired research, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels and next-generation photovoltaics. This expertise is pulled together under a strategic framework through LightWorks.

The LightWorks initiative, headed by Gary Dirks, fosters cooperation among academia, industry and government to advance innovation and facilitate technology transfer for applications such as low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells, fungible fuels from CO2, water and sunlight, and renewable fuels from algae.

In addition to technology development, researchers are looking at ways to take advantage of existing infrastructure and map a strategy for the integration of new energy sources that power the economy and preserve the planet. The goal is to create a framework for other researchers to see a pathway going forward to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Other initiatives that LightWorks is undertaking include Arizona’s energy future, energy education and policy engagement.

Dirks will be speaking at the February 2 Dean’s Lecture Series event, discussing what lies ahead on the path for the transition from conventional oil for transportation to renewable resources.

Dirks brings a unique perspective to the issue and ASU’s involvement in the solution. He received his doctorate in chemistry from ASU in 1980 and was the first doctoral student to work with Devens Gust, Thomas Moore and Ana Moore in ASU’s Center for the Study of Early Events in Photosynthesis (now the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis).

Dirks went on to work in the energy industry as a researcher, strategic planner and then ultimately, president of BP China and BP Asia-Pacific. In China, Dirks grew BP from an operation with fewer than 30 employees and no revenue to more than 1,300 employees and revenues of about $4 billion in 2008.

For more information on LightWorks, its initiatives and the centers at ASU working on light-inspired research, visit

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