Solar Cell Design Research Featured On NBC News

Solar cell design could lead to more efficient, less expensive energy

An innovative approach to designing more efficient organic solar cells developed by Cheng Sun, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Wei Chen, Wilson-Cook Professor in Engineering Design and professor of mechanical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been featured by NBC News.

Cheng Sun

The researchers were able to maximize the amount of time light remained within the solar cell by designing a 100-nanometer-thick dielectric layer, called a “scattering layer.” Using natural evolution as a guide, Sun and Chen were able to pinpoint a geometrical pattern for the layer that is optimal for capturing and holding light in thin-cell organic solar cells.

“We wanted to determine the geometry for the scattering layer that would give us optimal performance,” said Sun. “But with so many possibilities, it’s difficult to know where to start, so we looked to laws of natural selection to guide us.”

Wei Chen
After the light enters the scattering layer, it is transmitted to the active layer, where it is converted into electricity.

Sun and Chen served as co-authors on a paper about the findings, “Highly Efficient Light-Trapping Structure Design Inspired by Natural Evolution,” which was published in Scientific Reports January 3. It has since been profiled by NBC NewsUnited Press International, and CIOL.