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Cost-Efficient Solar Cells

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Clarkson chemical and biomolecular engineering majors Patrick Kelleher and Sydney Laramie were among six Clarkson students who spent last summer working on affordable renewable energy alternatives thanks to a $350,000 endowed fund created by National Grid to promote and support undergraduate research focused on renewable energy. 

Current methods for producing inorganic solar cells from silicon are expensive, which translates into high costs for green electricity. That leaves the general public unable to afford eco-friendly, energy-saving devices. Kelleher worked on solar cell technology that would result in significant cost savings thereby improving its user-ability.

Working with Prof. Sitaraman Krishnan, Kelleher researched the development and characterization of iodine-doped thin films to produce solar cells, which are used in photovoltaic devices like home solar panels, at a lower cost. “In our research, we used unconventional, yet economically viable materials to produce the solar cells because we wanted to save the end user money,” Kelleher says.

Laramie, who also worked on solar cells with Prof. Krishnan, focused on structure-property correlations for the density, viscosity and conductivity of ionic liquids used in green technologies, such as electrolytes in dye-sensitized solar cells.

To perform her research, Laramie gathered data from the available literature to find a density correlation and predict the density of an ionic liquid at room temperature.

“By using the properties I have predicted, researchers do not need to waste time and money synthesizing and testing these ionic liquids. Instead, they already know which liquids would be the best for a particular use,” she says.  

The National Grid Endowed Fund for Student Research Opportunities in Sustainable Energy annually funds summer research opportunities for Honors students studying sustainable energy.  The engineering students performed faculty-mentored original research on projects related to energy storage systems, energy efficiency and biodiesel production.

Patrick Kelleher, ChemEng major

Patrick Kelleher

For more information on the renewable energy research supported by National Grid click here.