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San Francisco Bay Area, California



Max L’Etoile

Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder, Aluminio

Max joins Breakthrough Energy’s Innovator Fellows program from Aluminio in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He is a materials scientist with expertise in metallization reliability and a penchant for automation and tool-building. As the Chief Technology Officer at Aluminio, Max is responsible for scaling the company’s metallization process for customer testing, including the development of novel, precision tooling.

Today, silver used on solar cells is both scarce and costly, accounting for 10% of the world’s annual silver supply and 10% of the cost of solar modules. To accelerate the global adoption of solar technologies, Aluminio is developing a new approach to replace more than 90% of the silver in solar cells with aluminum, a less expensive and more abundant material. Through the Fellows program, Aluminio seeks to finalize their prototype and demonstrate their metallization technology’s manufacturing processes with customers.

Max earned a Bachelor of Arts in physics at Harvard University and a Doctor of Philosophy in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Max grew up hacking electronics projects together in his parents’ garage and skiing, biking, and hiking in the mountains around Bend, Oregon. By developing new climate technology at Aluminio, he is living out the dreams that childhood inspired.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Innovation happens at the intersection of disparate fields.

Who has had the greatest impact on your career path?
My undergraduate research advisor, Prof. Frans Spaepen, is the reason I pursued a PhD in materials science and engineering. My time in his lab deeply shaped the ways in which I think about science, technology, and the nebulous boundary between the two.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
As a small child, I was a big fan of the cartoon “Rescue Heroes,” and I was convinced that I would grow up to become a member of search and rescue who also invented the kinds of vehicles and equipment used in the cartoon.