University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

University of Delaware Library | Newark, DE 19717-5267 | (302) 831-2229

Karl Wolfgang Böer Papers

1945 - 2003

(bulk dates 1961 - 1986)

Manuscript Collection Number: 483
Location: Library Annex | Special Collections Use Only | Library requires 24 hour notice for retrieval.
Accessioned: Gift of Karl W. Böer; multiple accessions, 1992 - 2003
Extent: 148 linear ft.
Content: Brochures, charts, computer disks, conference programs, correspondence, drawings, financial papers, general office files, manuscripts, news clippings, notebooks, pamphlets, patents, photographs & slides, posters, programs, published journals, publications, specifications, teaching materials, tests, theses & dissertations, transparencies, travel documents, CdS solar cell modules.
Languages: English, German.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: January 2003 - January 2004 by Gerald Cloud, David DeMare Stivers, Carrie Foley, Theresa Hessey, Andrea Keppers, and Melissa Poinsett.

Processing of the Karl Wolfgang Böer Papers was supported by a grant from the Friends of the Center for the History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics.

for reference assistance email Special Collections

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Physicist, inventor, university professor, and solar energy pioneer Karl Wolfgang Böer was born March 23, 1926, in Berlin, Germany. He became a naturalized American citizen in August 1972. Böer was educated at Humboldt University in Berlin (Diploma, Physics, 1949; Doctorate, Physics and Solid State Physics, 1952, 1955) where he also taught in the physics department from 1950-1961. At Humboldt University, Böer formed and directed a research team, which became a section of the II Physics Department in 1951 with eight scientists. By 1961, the group had grown to 26 scientists and 23 support personnel. Upon completion of his doctoral degrees, and in addition to his academic position at Humboldt, Böer founded and became director of the Section of Dielectric Breakdown of the German Academy of Science in Berlin. The laboratories included facilities to grow and analyze cadmium sulfide (CdS) single crystals, optical and electrical laboratories, a magnetic laboratory (40kG/8cm3), a high pressure facility (20kbar with optical windows), and x-ray, emission spectroscopy, and low temperature facilities. The shops included mechanical (for metal and wood), glass, and electronic shops.

Böer's decision to immigrate to the United States was prompted by the construction of the Berlin Wall-an event that took place while Böer was attending a scientific conference at Cornell University. After resigning from his position as chair of the physics department at Humboldt, Böer began his career at the University of Delaware as an associate professor of physics in 1962. In 1965 he became professor of physics, and, in 1971, professor of physics and engineering.

With a vision of solar energy as a supply source for residential energy and a means to reduce American dependence on foreign oil imports, Böer anticipated issues of the energy crisis of the mid-1970s and founded the Institute of Energy Conservation (IEC) at the University of Delaware in 1972. He served as its director and chief scientist from 1972-1975. Under Böer's direction, the IEC grew from a small research and development group into a major research facility and important training ground for many of the individuals who have contributed to advances in photovoltaic technology for delivery of solar energy. In the introduction to a special issue of Progress in Photovoltaics celebrating IEC's 25th anniversary in 1997, Birkmire and Hegedus credited Böer with recognizing the potential of thin film photovoltaic cells coupled with thermal collectors as clean and inexpensive means to deliver solar energy. Böer obtained funding from the National Science Foundation, electric power utilities, and the University of Delaware Board of Trustees to establish the IEC. This pioneering endeavor predated the first oil embargo, as well as the establishment of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), both formed in 1977.

Research during the early years at IEC focused on increasing the conversion and delivery efficiency of copper sulfide/cadmium sulfide (Cu2S/CdS) used in thin film solar cells. In 1972, Böer proposed Solar One, the first solar house, to harvest solar energy in a total system approach. The experimental house, with solar-generated heat and electricity, was built in 1973 at the University of Delaware with support from Delmarva Power and Light Company.

Parallel to development of IEC, Böer was involved in the foundation of Solar Energy Systems (SES), Inc., a private corporation in contract with the University of Delaware, IEC, and Shell Oil Company. Böer served initially as chairman of the board (1972-1981) and chief executive officer (1972-1975); he later served as chief scientist (1975-1985). The purpose of the company was to produce solar energy conversion hardware, beginning with Cu2S/CdS solar cells capable for mass fabrication.

In 1975 Böer returned to a fulltime research and teaching position and began advising the University's president on long term projects. In 1993 he was named Distinguished Professor of Physics and Solar Energy. He eventually retired from the University of Delaware in 1994 as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics and Solar Energy after receiving many awards for teaching and research. In 1998, the University presented Böer with its Medal of Distinction.

Böer's expertise in solar cells, solary energy systems, solid state physics, and electronic transport in solids is internationally recognized. He holds 28 patents in solid state technology, authored over 300 articles on solar energy conversion and solid state physics, co-authored two books, and edited scientific textbooks and journals. Böer was the founding editor of physica status solidi: the International Journal of Solid State Physics, and edited Solar News and Views in Solar Age, the Journal of Solar Energy Materials, and Advances in Solar Energy. Böer's book, Survey of Semiconductor Physics (1993) is the most comprehensive treatment in the field written by a single author. He has received the highest honors of his profession, including election as a fellow of the American Physical Society (1965), fellow of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES, 2000), and fellow of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE, 2001).

Throughout his career with the University of Delaware's physics and engineering departments and the IEC, Böer worked on many projects relating to the development and production of solar cells and solar energy conversion. These projects were funded by agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) at DOE, the United States military, NASA, and private corporations. As evidenced in this collection, Böer maintained close contact with the emerging fields of solar energy and energy conservation by attending conferences, making public addresses, reviewing and refereeing academic publications, and serving as a consultant to industries and governments. During the 1970s, he had several government assignments on national energy panels. He was a member of the White House Office of Science and Technology Energy Assessment Panel (1972), the National Advisory Board in Solar Conservation Research (1975-1977), and a member of U.S. Senator William Roth's Delaware Energy Task Force (1974-1975). Additionally, Böer served the National Science Foundation several times, chairing the CdS Solar Cell subpanel (1973) and the Solar Heating Systems subpanel (1973).

In addition to his duties at the University of Delaware, IEC, and SES, Böer worked with various groups and organizations dedicated to the development of solar energy. Böer was an active member of the American Section of International Solar Energy Society (ASES), a professional organization that advanced the use of solar energy through the gathering and dissemination of information related to renewable energy sources. The primary activities of ASES include hosting and organizing conferences and symposia, publishing periodicals, scholarly journals, and conference proceedings, and encouraging research and public awareness of solar energy. Böer began serving as a member of the ASES board of directors in 1974, then as chairman of the board from 1976-1977. He also served on the Executive Committee, the Publications Committee, the Long Range Planning Committee, and as a member of the Physics Division throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. ASES opened an office at the University of Delaware in 1978, and eventually became a main office for the organization's publication projects.

In 1987 the University of Delaware established the Karl W. Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit in Böer's honor. Former President Jimmy Carter was the first recipient of the award in 1993, recognized for his work in focusing world attention on solar energy. Honorees receive a bronze medal and a $40,000 stipend.

In 1995 Böer was named to the advisory board of WISTA, a Science and Technology Center in Berlin-Adlershof, serving as the group's U.S. Representative. Delegates from WISTA toured the United States in order to promote greater technological, educational, and industrial cooperation between the U.S. and Berlin-Adlershof.


Introduction to Special Issue of Progress in Photovoltaics: The Thin Film Photovoltaic Symposium Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Institute of Energy Conversion at the University of Delaware. Editors: Robert W. Birkmire and Steven S. Hegedus. Newark, Del.: IEC, University of Delaware, 1997.

"Karl Böer." The Complete Marquis Who's Who. Marquis Who's Who, 2003. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group, 2003.

"Karl Böer." Who's Who in Technology. Detroit: Gale, 1989. 6th ed. Okonowicz, Ed. "Karl W. Boer appointed to German scientific board." UpDate. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware. 8 February 1996. 1-3.

Career Summary

     1955 Dr. rer. nat. habil.     Solid State Physics
     1952 Dr. rer.nat.             Physics
          Special education:  Solid State Physics, Electronics
     1949 Dipl. Phys.	Physics (Summa Cum Laude)
          General education:  Chemistry, Physics,Mathematics
          Languages:  English, German (fluent), French(marginal)

1949-1961 Humbolt University, Berlin
1949-1952 Assistant
1952-1955 Oberassistant
1955-1958 Docent
1958-1961 Professor with full teaching permission
1961 Professor with professorial chair

1955-1961 German Academy of Science, Berlin
          Founder & Director of Section of Dielectric Breakdown

1962-1994 University of Delaware
1962-1965 Associate Professor of Physics
1965-1971 Professor of Physics
1971-1994 Professor of Physics & Engineering
1972-1975 Founder & Director of Institute of Energy Conversion
1978-pres Advisor to the President

1972-     SES, INC.
1972-1975 Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer
1972-1981 Chairman of the Board
1975-1985 Chief Scientist

1955-pres Editorship
1955 	Fortschritte der Physic
          physica status solidi: International Journal of Solid State Physics
1960-1961      Founder & Editor-in-chief
1970-pres      Editor (Series A)
          Solar News and Views in Solar Age
1978-1981      Editor
          Journal of Solar Energy Materials
1979-               Editor
          Advances in Solar Energy
1981-               Co-founder, co-editor-in-chief

1961-1962 New York University
1965      Stanford University (Summer)
          Technical University, Berlin (Germany)
1966      (December)
1976-1977 (December-January)
1977      University of New South Wales (November-December)
1979      Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics,
Stuttgart (Germany)

American Section of the International Solar Energy Society
1969-          Member
1974      Director
1976-1977 Chairman
1978      Secretary
1978-1981 Director of Publications
1978      Chair, Publications Committee
1976-1980 Chair, Physics Division
2001      Fellow

Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Association
1977      Director

American Physical Society
1962-1964 Member
1964-pres Fellow

Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers
1972-1999 Senior Member
2000      Fellow

Electro-Chemical Society
1970      Member
1976      Director in Energy Group

Sigma Pi Sigma, Sigma Chi, honor societies, 1962-

Delaware Academy of Science, 1962-

1976-          Member
1978-          Representative of AS of ISES in Physics


1952 First observed dc electroluminescence in single crystals

1953 First experimental evidence of Coulomb-repulsive traps

1954 Evidence of field excitation of trapped carriers in CdS
	single crystals

1956 Developed a new method to analyze systems of non-linear
	differential equations

1959 Discovered high-field domains (field instabilities in
	homogenous semiconductors)

1959 First experimental observation of Franz-Keldysh effect

1960 Developed stable ohmic contacts to CdS

1961 Developed electro-optical analysis to measure field

1962 Proposed Bose-Einstein condensation of Excitons

1963 Introduced field-of-direction analysis to discuss
     solution of transport and Poisson-quations

1965 Utilized field and current inhomogeneties producing
     index of refraction gradients to deflect laser beams

1966 Improved substantially the photoelectric properties of
     evaporated CdS via special recrystallization technique

1968 Introduced stationary high-field domains to determine
     field dependence of carrier density and mobility

1968 & 1975    Developed light induced modulation of optical
     absorption technique to identify transition anomalies
     near band edges

1969 Proposed model for semiconductivity of glasses

1969 Identified initiation of Ovshinsky effect as
	electrothermal instability

1970 Constructed first electrothermal laser beam deflector

1971 Proposed a second order phase transition of semi-
	conducting glasses

1972 Utilized high-field domains for sensitive infrared

1972 Introduced quasi-Fermi level analysis to investigate

1972 Proposed Solar One System to harvest solar energy in a
	total system approach

1972 Developed an improved model of the CdS/Cu2S solar cell

1972 Improved CdS/Cu2S cell and developed method feasible
	for mass fabrication

1973/1974 Determined that Cd-doping inhomogeneity close to
     surface is responsible for CdS Class I/II behavior

1980 Developed solar cell-equation for non-ideal diodes

1981 Developed new kinetic method to measure space charges
	in junctions

In addition, numerous papers were published with
contributions to better understanding of the
photoconductivity and defect structure of CdS, of the
dielectric breakdown, the electronic noise, photochemical
reactions, di-electric after-effects, the influence of
atmospheric ambients on photoconductance (all in CdS),
photovoltaics (specifically CdS/Cu2S cells), solar energy
conversion, the semiconductivity of glasses, blocking and
the ohmic contacts, TSC analysis, reaction kinetics in
photoconductors, and to the terrestrial utilization of solar

Scope and Content Note

The Karl Wolfgang Böer Papers, 1945-2003, document the life work and professional career of this German-American physicist, inventor, university professor, and solar energy pioneer. Böer’s work in solid state technology, understanding the photoconductivity and structure of cadmium sulfide, and photovoltaics are seminal to twentieth-century advances in solar energy conversion and the modern energy conservation movements. Dr. Böer’s papers are integrally related to his career at the University of Delaware, where he has been since 1961. The collection reflects a relationship with the institution that allowed Böer to fulfill his academic role and conduct scientific research, while also allowing him every opportunity to build research laboratories and pursue entrepreneurial initiatives applying advances in technologies resulting from his research.

The Karl Böer Papers include technical data and laboratory notes related to the science of his work, but they also document to a large extent the process of research in the latter half of the twentieth century. Böer’s management style of team research is reflected in many cases, from his early establishment of a laboratory system at the Section of Dielectric Breakdown at the German Academy of Science in the late 1950s, to the founding of the Institute for Energy Conversion and the venture with SES, Inc. Critical funding support for such initiatives came from government and industry, who saw the benefits of partnerships with universities to take scientific proposals through the stages of proof and laboratory experiments to commercially viable manufacturing. The boon for such development during the energy-conscious decade of the 1970s coincided with a government program called Research Applied to National Needs (RANN).

Other aspects of twentieth-century scientific research are demonstrated in Böer’s papers as well. The international network of scholars and scientists is shown through Böer’s activities in professional organizations and contributions to conferences. The role of publishing is well-documented through Böer’s editorial work with journals and conference proceedings, as well as his authorship of more than 300 scientific papers and articles. The research laboratory system and sources of funding are represented through Böer’s grant and contract files, research reports, and his extensive library of technical reports.

The Karl Wolfgang Böer Papers span the dates 1945-2003, and comprise 148 linear feet. The collection includes all manner of documents and materials related to teaching, research, and professional activities: brochures, charts, computer disks, conference programs, correspondence, drawings, financial documents, general office files, manuscripts, news clippings, notebooks, pamphlets, patents, photographs and slide transparencies, posters, programs, published journals and publications, specifications, teaching materials, tests, theses and dissertations, travel documents, and sample CdS solar cell modules.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized in seven series: I. Academic and Professional Activities, II. Institute of Energy Conversion, III. Grants and Contracts, IV. American Section of International Solar Energy Society, V. Professional Writings, VI. Solar Energy Systems, Inc., and VII. Publications. Detailed scope and content notes for each series precede corresponding container lists in the finding aid.

The Karl Wolfgang Böer Papers were acquired in multiple accessions between 1992-2003, beginning with a transfer of boxes when Dr. Böer moved from a campus office shortly before retiring from teaching. Other accessions arrived from storage at the IEC, another campus office, and Böer’s home office and storage areas. The collection was organized into seven series, attempting to reconstruct original file sequences when they could be determined. Because of the multiple accessions over a decade, and because of overlapping activities, as well as changing administrative and secretarial support over forty years, there are certain gaps, redundancies, and unavoidable co-location of many subjects in the papers. For example, information related to IEC is found in the subject files of Series I. UD Aministrative Files, as well as an extensive series of its own (Series II.), as well as Series VI. SES, Inc., which had a contractual relationship with IEC. The researcher is advised to carefully explore the finding aid for relevant sources and cross references.

Series List

Summary Series Outline

I. Academic & Professional Activities II. Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC) III. Grants and Contracts IV. American Section of International Solar Energy Society (ASISES) V. Professional Writings VI. Solar Energy Systems (SES), Inc. VIII. Publications Appendix

Detailed Series Outline

Series I. Academic & Professional Activities I.A. UD Administrative and Subject Files 1. Subject Files, 1961-1993 2. Correspondence, 1960-1990 I.B. Professional Activities 1. Journals, 1961-2001 2. Professional Organizations, 1962-1981 3. Consulting, 1965-1976 4. Conferences, 1960-1989 5. Activities and Trips, 1974-1996 6. Information on Institutes and Organizations, 1954 – 1978 7. Notebooks, 1975 – 1988 I.C. UD Teaching, 1962-1978 I.D. Theses & Dissertations 1. Karl Böer,1949-1955 2. Students, 1951-1986 I.E. Humboldt University, 1945-1961 I.F. WISTA, 1994-2000 Series II. Institute for Energy Conversion II.A. Alphabetical Office Files 1. Böer-Personal 2. Böer-Publications 1974 3. Böer Editorial Reviewing 4. Böer Trips 5. Colleagues 6. Competition 7. Conferences/Call For Papers (Declined) 8. Conferences (at University of Delaware) 9. Conference Reports 10. Funding Sources 11. Government-Delaware State 12. Government Agencies-Other States 13. Government-Federal (Congress) 14. Government-Federal (other) 14 a. Individual Correspondence With Discontinued Staff, 1973-1974 14 b. Institute Correspondence, 1973 and before 15. Industry 16. Miscellaneous 17. Oil Companies 18. Personnel-Consultants 19. Pollution 20. Power Utilities 21. Professional Societies 22. Suppliers 23. Technical Developments 24. Universities II.B. Miscellaneous IEC Office Files 1. Alphabetical Office Files 2. DP & L Project 3. Weekly Progress Reports 4. Staff Listings II.C. Projects 1. Solar One 2. SES 3. Shell Oil 4. Other IEC Projects II.D. IEC Correspondence 1. Alphabetical Correspondence Files 2. Subject Files 3. Miscellaneous Files II.E. Early IEC Series III. Grant/Contract Files and Research Reports III.A. Government Agencies 1. Air Force Office of Scientific Research 2. Army Research Office 3. Department of Energy (DOE) 4. NASA 5. National Science Foundation (NSF) 6. NSF and Research Applied to National Needs (NSF/RANN) 7. Naval Research, Office of 8. Sandia National Laboratories 9. Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) 10. Miscellaneous Government Agencies III.B. Utility Companies and other Organizations Series IV. American Section of International Solar Energy Society (AS/ISES) IV.A. Administrative Files, A-Z 1. Conferences & Meetings 2. Committees and Divisions 3. Correspondence 4. Solar Energy Associations (by State or Geographic region) 5. AS of ISES General Files, A-Z IV.B. Financial Files IV.C. Publication Files Series V. Karl W. Böer Professional Writing V.A. Numbered Publications (by KWB) V.B. Correspondence V.C. Draft Files 1. Numbered Drafts 2. Miscellaneous Drafts V.D. Research Publications Series VI. Solar Energy Systems (SES) VI.A. Administrative Files 1. General Files 2. Financial 3. Legal 4. Marketing VI.B. Production and Project Files 1. Research and Development a. General b. Reference materials 2. Specifications 3. Drawings and Projects 4. Acceleration Physics Tests 5. Patents 6. IEC Reports 7. Prototype solar cell modules Series VII. Publications VII.A. Articles VII.B. Research Progress Reports VII.C. Conference Proceedings VII.D. Miscellaneous Publications Appendix: Publications of Karl. W. Böer

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