Rutgers Solar Materials Research Efforts


       Solar energy refers to the capture of useful energy from the sun’s rays. This can be done many ways. Two of the primary ways of achieving this involve converting light directly into electrical energy (“photo-voltaics”) or simpler systems that capture the energy as heat and reduce other energy costs (“photo-thermal”). It is also possible for sunlight to cause chemical reactions and liberate chemical energy. For example, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen (“photo-electrolysis”) the hydrogen can be used as a fuel to replace fossil fuel sources. Sunlight is also the key source of energy for plant-matter growth and this is being widely considered for biofuel creation (mostly ethanol).


Advances in photovoltaic solar energy collection will depend on many practical and fundamental advancements. The solar spectrum consists of light colors (wavelengths) that are widely disparate and difficult for a single material to collect with total efficiency. Instead, for photovoltaic solar power we use electronic transitions in selected semiconductors or tailored dye absorbers that will be able to promote electrons into excited states that can then be used to push current through external circuits. Research at Rutgers is aimed at many of the fundamental optical and electronic processes that are important (and linked together) to achieving high efficiency energy collection within these constraints.


New directions include multiple absorbers that are tuned to specific wavelength ranges and new self-assembled methods for coupling their absorptions into an integrated output. New processing methods may also result in lower cost solar cells. Researchers in MSE (Materials Science and Engineering), ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Chemistry, Physics, and other departments are involved in aspects of this important and fundamental work.


Background Information about Solar:


·       Basics of Photovoltaic Device Operation

·       Different Types of Solar Cells


Specific Group Research Efforts:


·       D. P. Birnie III Group: Work on Dye Sensitized Solar Cells

·       A. Du Pasquier:   Hybrid dye/organic solar and polymer electrolytes.

·       M. Chhowalla Group: Work on Organic Photovoltaics and C-Nanotube Conductive Layers

·       R. Riman Group:   Self-Assembly of Particles Using a Meniscus Self-Assembly Route (The “Fluid Forming” Process)

·       Y. Lu (ECE) :   ZnO based dye-sensitized cells.

·       R. A. Bartynski, F. Zimmermann, A. B. Mann, and D. P. Birnie Collaboration:  NSOM and Spectroscopic Testing of Dye/Titania Structures (work in progress - stay tuned!)

·       H. J. Schugar, S. Knapp, and J. A. Potenza:  Novel Metal Ion Coordination Structures for Improved Dye Sensitizers

·       Other Groups Working on Related Technologies