Category: News

Pearce on Training Coal Workers for the Solar Industry

Solar PanelsJoshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) is quoted in Newsweek, “Why Donald Trump Can’t Save the Coal Industry,” and his research was covered in A Proposal To Retrain Coal Miners on North East Public Radio.


A study published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Economics says coal miners could cheaply and easily be retrained for jobs in the solar energy industry. The solar industry is experiencing employment growth 12 times that of the entire economy. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating jobs in solar energy will increase by as much as 24 percent by 2022 from a decade before, the employment opportunities for solar panel installers and other jobs in that industry are enormous. And unlike wind and hydroelectric, solar is not geographically limited and so could absorb the vast supply of coal miners with modest relocation costs—if any—for miners and their families.

A relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to [solar]-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry,

according to the study, which was written by Joshua Pearce, associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, and Edward Louie, a doctoral student at the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University.

Read more at Newsweek, by Kurt Eichenwald.

Michael Meeropol: A Proposal To Retrain Coal Miners

In fact, there is a way to have both an increase in well-paying jobs in the energy sector and a switch to a carbon neutral future with emphasis on renewable sources of energy.  The Harvard Business Review just published a summary of a study showing that with the rapid growth in employment in solar industries all coal miners as well as workers in coal fired electrical generating plants (93% of the coal consumed in the US is used to generate electricity) no matter what the level of expertise, could be retrained for jobs in the solar-generated electrical industry.

[See Joshua Pearce, “What if All US Coal Workers Were Retrained to Work in Solar,” Harvard Business Review (August 8, 2016) available at]

The detailed research was published by Dr. Pearce and a collaborator Edward Louie in the journal Energy Economics (“Retraining Investment for U.S. Transition from Coal to Solar Photovoltaic Employment”  Vol 57, pages 295–302 (2016). doi:10.1016/j.eneco.2016.05.016 free open access pre-print.)   In the Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Pearce writes that “…. because of the tremendous drop in costs for solar technology, solar adoption is now rising rapidly.   ….  the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. The U.S. solar industry is creating a lot of jobs, bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy. As of November 2015, the solar industry employed 208,859 solar workers,…”

Read more and listen to the audio at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, by Michael Meeropol.

3D Printing Economics

3D PrintingIn the News

Research by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) and undergraduate student Emily Peterson was covered widely in the 3-D printing industry press, 3-D printing undustry and 3-Ders and Could You Save Money by 3D Printing Household Items? – All3DP, as well as the larger technical press including: 3D printing ordinary household goods can save you a lot of money, study finds – TechSpot, License to Print Money at Home?– Engineering360, and 3D-printing household objects could be top money-saving tip – E&T.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was quoted in the article Can Plug-and-Play Solar Systems Lead the Way? in Green Buildings.

Pearce’s lab was covered by BBC Arabic on 3-D printing and CBS Detroitused MTU 3-D printers as examples in The Future Of Manufacturing: What’s Next?

3-D printing research by Pearce and undergradate Emily Peterson was covered by technology sites across Asia including Nanjixiong (China), Weiot (China), 24 Maker (China) and Naver (Korea).

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) wrote an opinion piece for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The piece was titled “America Should Recruit Smart Immigrants from Every Country.”

Pearce’s research is covered in These Researchers Want To Prepare Us For The Post-Apocalypse-Futurism, and 3D Printers In The Average American Household – Computer Power User.

In Print

Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate student Emmily Peterson co-authored a paper with Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled “Emergence of Home Manufacturing in the Developed World: Return on Investment for Open-source 3-D Printers,” in the journal Technologies.

PhD student Nagendra Tanikella (MSE) coauthored an article with alumnus Ben Wittbrodt (MSE) and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) titled “Tensile Strength of Commercial Polymer Materials for Fused Filament Fabrication 3-D Printing” that was published in Additive Manufacturing.

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) published Emerging Business Models for Open Source Hardware in the Journal of Open Hardware.

Just Press Print: 3-D Printing At Home Saves Cash

By Stefanie Sidortsova.

Interested in making an investment that promises a 100 percent return on your money, and then some? Buy a low-cost, open-source 3-D printer, plug it in and print household items.

In a recent study published in Technologies, Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) set out to determine how practical and cost effective at-home 3-D printing is for the average consumer.

He found that consumers—even those who are technologically illiterate—can not only make their money back within six months, but can also earn an almost 1,000 percent return on their investment over a five-year period. Pearce estimates that using only the random 26 objects analyzed in the study may have already saved consumers who use 3-D printers at home more than $4 million. There are several million free 3-D printable designs available on the web.

Read the full story.

Joshua Pearce Awarded People’s Choice for

Joshua Pearce
Joshua Pearce

Associate Professor Joshua Pearce received a 2017 People’s Choice Award from Recipients are recognized for having excelled in contributing and sharing stories about open source. Winners were voted on by the community.

Joshua Pearce runs the University’s Open Sustainability Technology group. In March 2015, he wrote about his course that lets students build their own open source 3D printers and use them to complete class projects. Since then, Pearce has shared several stories about open hardware, open source design, and more with readers.

Once a President, Always a President

Ray Smith and Glenn MrozTech’s growth under Ray Smith cannot be overstated. Soon to celebrate a century, this visionary created a Husky-strong foundation that still guides us today.

Former Michigan Tech President Raymond L. Smith turns 100 years old in January. His influence reshaped the University and its direction for generations to come.

Smith became chairman of the Michigan Tech Department of Metallurgical Engineering, which quickly rose to national prominence under his leadership. After six years at Tech, he became the University’s sixth president.

Read more at 2016 Michigan Tech Magazine: Issue 1, by Mark Wilcox.

Sodium-Embedded Carbon Nanowalls in the News

Yun Hang Hu
Yun Hang Hu

A new material developed by a team led by Yun Hang Hu (MSE) has been featured on several science blogs including Electronic Specifier, and Energy Daily.

See Bright Future for Energy Devices, by Allison Mills.

In the News

A new material invented by a Michigan Tech-led team and Yun Hang Hu (MSE) was covered in Capacitor Industry News and Materials Today.

Joshua Pearce on Solar and Sustainable Energy

The Next Chapter

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was interviewed for Are Sustainable Energy Jobs Sustainable in Epoch Times (circulation 1.3million).

Pearce was also interviewed on plug and play solar for the Radio Alexandria’s program The Next Chapter audio show.

Pearce is quoted in What’s the Difference Between Solar Panels? in Machine Design.

What’s the Difference Between Solar Panels?

Solar panels or photovoltaics (PVs) are not new in terms of the technology. However, manufacturing processes, cost reduction, and new research has some engineers thinking that photovoltaics will rival traditional power sources, such as coal. How important is Big Solar going to be? And what are the differences between the different types of photovoltaics?

“Solar workers have outnumbered coal workers in the U.S. for some time, but now their ranks have swollen to surpass even the oil and gas industry,” notes Joshua Pearce, Associate Professor of Material Science and Engineering at Michigan Technology . “It is not uncommon to have solar power be the less expensive option—lower-level cost of electricity—for both homeowners and businesses. This is driving a positive feedback loop, where additional growth is expected. The cumulative global market for solar PV is expected to triple by 2020 to almost 700 gigawatts (GW), with annual demand eclipsing 100 GW in 2019.”

Read more at Machine Design, by Jeff Kerns.

In Print

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) co-authored a paper, “Feeding Everyone if the Sun is Obscured and Industry is Disabled,” published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

In the News

Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) is quoted in Trump’s Deregulatory Ambitions Could Realize $70B More for US Solar in Solar Reviews.

Countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Switzerland already encourage plug-and-play solar. Even the Czech Republic permits it! —Joshua Pearce

Best of

Joshua Pearce’s (MSE/ECE) writing on ROI for open source hardware was listed as one of the Best of Business articles for 2016.

The use of free and open source hardware (FOSH) has revolutionized the nonprofit world’s ability to bring assistance directly and more affordably to people needing aid. Overall, individuals and nonprofits are using custom-printed objects to innovate to solve less profitable problems, addressing more on the “long tail” of their issues list, if you will. Joshua Pearce looks at how to calculate the ROI for free and open source hardware, a mission-critical process that you need to do to turn your small project into a big one that makes a big difference.

6 steps to calculate ROI for an open hardware project

Laptop Stand
Laptop Stand

Free and open source software advocates have courageously blazed a trail that is now being followed by those interested in open source for physical objects. It’s called free and open source hardware (FOSH), and we’re seeing an exponential rise in the number of free designs for hardware released under opensource licenses, Creative Commons licenses,or placed in the public domain.

Read more at, by Joshua Pearce.


A paper co-authored by Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), Caryn Heldt (ChE) and ME undergraduate Nick Anzalone is being honored as one of the 2017 SLAS Technology Ten.

Read the editorial by Edward Kai-Hua Chow (SLAS Technology editor-in-chief).

Open-Source Wax RepRap 3-D Printer for Rapid Prototyping Paper-Based Microfluidics

By J. M. Pearce, N. C. Anzalone, and C. L. Heldt

The open-source release of self-replicating rapid prototypers (RepRaps) has created a rich opportunity for low-cost distributed digital fabrication of complex 3D objects such as scientific equipment…