particles - where science matters
  • Endless energy

    By Janna Fischer, 3M Storyteller

    3M scientist Tim Hebrink holding the solar panels that have helped him generate about 80 percent of his home’s energy.
    Endless energy

    When it comes to generating renewable energy, Tim Hebrink is inexhaustible.

    Tim lived completely “off the grid” for 12 years, and for six months out of each of those years he produced way more renewable energy than he could use. So the 3M scientist recently connected back to the grid to sell that surplus energy to the utility company.

    He generates about 80 percent of his home’s energy with solar power, around 15 percent with wind, and the remainder with a gas-powered electric generator.

    Image of the mini solar array on 3M scientist Tim Hebrink’s deck.
    Home field advantage

    Tim also houses a mini solar array on his deck. Tim is a chemical engineer and a polymer film expert who has earned 40 3M patents. Some of his inventions were inspired by the work he does at home.

    “There’s no better way to learn about a technology than to live with it.”
    3M scientist Tim Hebrink posing with films that he has been testing films for their ability to increase the energy output of solar panels.
    Workin’ on the weekends

    For more than a decade, both at his job and on his own, Tim has been testing films for their ability to increase the energy output of solar panels and making them more energy efficient. 

    The data he collects at home on the weekends has been used in more than five patent applications.

    “Energy conservation and energy efficiency have always been important to me. I want my energy to come from a clean source.”
    Image of solar panels outside of 3M scientist Tim Hebrink’s home.
    Do your homework

    For people considering installing solar panels and using alternative energy as a main power source, Hebrink offers this advice: “Study your energy usage. Energy conservation is just as important as clean-energy generation.”