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April 12, 2013

Solar energy company founder, Purdue alum to give lecture on social entrepreneurship, sustainability

Stephen Katsaros

Stephen Katsaros
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The founder of an innovative solar-powered energy company will give a talk this month on the Purdue University campus that focuses on social entrepreneurship, international business and how the two can come together to benefit our world.

Stephen Katsaros, chief executive officer at Nokero International Ltd. and a 2012 recipient of the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award from Purdue, will give the lecture "Global Access to Clean Energy: Empowering 2 Billion Who Live on $2 per Day - Engineering Meets Social Entrepreneurship" at 7 p.m. April 23 in the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1010.

The talk is free and open to the public. Cosponsors are the Purdue Energy Center in Discovery Park, Purdue Energy Forum and the School of Mechanical Engineering.

"Sparked by a solar-powered light bulb he designed in 2010, Stephen Katsaros focused much of his attention on the lack of electricity in many countries. And while it's a noble goal, his company is poised to make a profit," said Pankaj Sharma, managing director of the Purdue Energy Center.

"That makes him and his company models of social entrepreneurship, the concept that merges smart business practices with the goodwill of humanitarianism. This talk is a must-see for those interested in social responsibility, international commerce and 'doing well by doing good.' "

Katsaros launched Nokero in 2010 with a mission to bring solar-powered light bulbs to the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity yet collectively burn 77 billion liters of kerosene a year in order to see at night.

Worldwide, the burning of kerosene for light emits 190 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, causes respiratory illness and increases risk of accidental fire. In addition, for those with an income of $2 or less a day, the cost of kerosene consumes up to 20 percent of their wages.

Through Nokero, more than 500,000 of solar-powered lights have been sold to people in 120 countries in less than three years.

Katsaros began his career with a number of inventions for competitive and recreational skiers. While still pursuing his degree from Purdue in 1994, he founded Odessa Design. His invention - risers for alpine skis - sold more than 40,000 units and inspired a change in the way most recreational ski technology is designed and manufactured.

He founded RevoPower in 2003 and spent five years developing the tools and methodology to obtain patents for a motorized wheel for bicycles. The result: an engine-driven wheel on a bicycle that can exceed 20 mph while maintaining a fuel efficiency of 175 mpg.

In 2007 Katsaros invented products for HaberVision, including the eliminator fan module, a device that can automatically activate a tiny fan inside ski goggles to reduce humidity and prevent fogging. The company also produced a line of ecofriendly children's toys.

Earlier this month, Katsaros received the Patent for Humanity Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award is supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

For his work at Nokero, he was a 2012 World Design Impact Prize finalist. In 2012 he ranked eighth among a list of 33 Idea Mensch Entrepreneurs Who Make the World a Better Place. He received the national B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award as an undergraduate in 1995.

In addition to gaining a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering degree from Purdue in 1996, Katsaros was a non-degree seeking student at the Bard Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado from 1998-99.

The Purdue Energy Center is part of the university's Global Sustainability Institute, which was launched in Discovery Park to coordinate Purdue's research efforts in sustainability challenges such as climate change, energy, food security, the environment and water.

The initiative also includes the Center for the Environment, the Purdue Water Community, the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and the Purdue Center for Global Food Security.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Source: Pankaj Sharma, 765-496-7452, sharma@purdue.edu