Skip to comments.12 yr old revolutionizes solar cells
Posted on 09/18/2008 10:25:13 AM PDT by pollwatcher
BEAVERTON, Ore. A new invention could revolutionize solar energy and it was made by a 12-year-old in Beaverton.
Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.
It all started with Legos - after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun.
"Solar it seems underused, and there are only a few problems with it," Yuan said.
Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.
"Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once," he said.
And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light.
"I started to realize I was actually onto something," Yuan said.
At first, he couldn't believe his calculations.
"This solar cell can't be generating this much electricity, it can't be absorbing this much extra light," he recalled thinking.
If he is right, solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.
"Which would make solar energy actually a viable energy source for the Pacific Northwest," Yuan said.
While college students have come up with unusual solar cars and the state of Oregon recently unveiled solar panels to power highway lights, Yuan is thinking global.
"It'll have a really positive impact on society and the environment," he said.
His next step is to get a manufacturer and market it.
Yuan is flying out to Washington D.C. on Monday to accept a $25,000 scholarship for his research. He earned the Davidson Fellow award, which is for those 18 and under.
12 years old - wow. And to think when I was his age, the most important thing was getting home from school in time to watch Spiderman.
bump for later
Cutting edge cells convert something like 20 percent of solar energy to electricity. Nine times this seems unlikely.
Another “Government School” doofus so roundly condemned by some around here.
I wish him well.
WOW! GREAT WORK, William!
well, the article is so vague on the science its very hard to tell what its trying to describe
Yep! At 12 I was more interested in which type of playing card would make the most noise on the spokes of my bike!
Of course, I have no idea if this will work or not. But OMG, where does a kid like this come from?
If true...the Saudis are now dealing a losing hand of cards. Autos powered by solar energy and his collection cell...will put gas powered gas out of existence in fifteen years. The kid ought to be put up for the Nobel Prize.
The sun is an object of great curiosity here in the northwest.
that kid is 12? is he on the chinese olympic gymnastic team as well?
The problem is this. Sunlight has many different frequencies in it. Solar cells are only able to extract energy from those frequencies that can resonate with the compounds in the photovoltaic material. Many years ago, the idea of making a photovoltaic cell with many different layers, each responding to a different frequency was tried out. Apparently, it only got so far.
The kid’s 3D cell might be another way of addressing the problem of multiple frequencies. Again, the notion of a 500 fold increase seems unlikely even with a 3D design. But will be patient and wait...
I think you meant to say "lower latitude" state.
You never know, it might reveal itself to you at some time..
If it’s all true, a child has figured out the obvious!
all those millions..billions of dollars spent on this kind of research, and they get smacked by a 12 yr. old... lmao
Condemned.... no child is condemned by anyone here...but if it makes you happy, Newbies posting gibberish usually are though.
Kindly notice that this young man is of ASIAN heritage.
My guess is that his intellectual curiosity and love of learning were instilled at HOME, long before the automatons teaching the federally mandated, dumbing down lesson plans so as not to leave behind the slowest, least interested kid in the class could destroy those traits.
That this one kid escaped the educational homogenizer is hardly exculpatory of the government schools.
IT MUST START IN THE HOME — and the smart parents KEEP their most precious possessions at home and teach them there.
What about those of us learning to tie our shoes? What TV?
Looking at definitions of efficiency, I'm pretty sure efficiency is based on the whole spectrum. I could be wrong about this.
O.K.... Government School doofus savant...
Excellent news!!!! Heres to foundational knowledge, curiosity, and invention!!!!
especially since 9 times 20 percent is 180 percent. ;-)
Solar cells convert only a tiny portion of solar rays to electricity because they only operate on a very narrow band of light. The 20% figure probably represents 20% conversion within the narrow band that the solar cells operate in. Now if you can widen the bandwidth then you can easily get 9 times as much energy.
I'm going to guess here and say that maybe the cells are capturing light that has been scattered, especially by sky and clouds.
n00bs should probably watch their tongues here, just saying.
It’s great the kid is interested in science, but this smells like cold fusion.
Now hold on a second there . . . we don't want this kid to get to big for his britches. He must first be vetted for his politics before being given any such thing as important as a PULITZER PRIZE! Nudge, nudge, what if his parents voted for George Bush? Or he likes McCain! No we must vet him first!! (sarc)
I don’t have a source that addresses this question directly, but it makes no sense to calculate efficiency on a narrow band. The whole effort to improve efficiency is to widen the conversion band.
arrogantsob? Is that you Barry?
I hope the kid and his parents have adequate security if this turns out to be true. The Big Oil companies along with their goons will be trying to knock down their door and terminate them...
You can never tell who the next Walmart, Microsoft or Google may be.......keep your eyes open and your powder dry.
When I was 12 I invented a universal solvent. The problem was that there was no container to hold it!
Feel free to read the article:
has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology
Sounds like a typical "Govt School" kid to me...Wait, my "govt school" didn't offer fusion/nano classes until at least 9th grade...
Buy this kid a beer!.../s
How many billions did he need in Government funds?
but then again, i have zero idea about this stuff.
ugh. Is this guy typing with his tongue? A lot of us won’t even use our fingers on our germy keyboards and type with the end of a pen. yuk.
My guess would be a loving two parent home.
When I was his age 3D’s was what I got on math english and spelling.
The article is not clear on the concept.
MIT opens new 'window' on solar energy
Cost effective devices expected on market soon
Imagine windows that not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help power the building they are part of. MIT engineers report a new approach to harnessing the sun's energy that could allow just that.
The work, to be reported in the July 11 issue of Science, involves the creation of a novel "solar concentrator." "Light is collected over a large area [like a window] and gathered, or concentrated, at the edges," explains Marc A. Baldo, leader of the work and the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.
As a result, rather than covering a roof with expensive solar cells (the semiconductor devices that transform sunlight into electricity), the cells only need to be around the edges of a flat glass panel. In addition, the focused light increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell "by a factor of over 40," Baldo says.
Because the system is simple to manufacture, the team believes that it could be implemented within three years--even added onto existing solar-panel systems to increase their efficiency by 50 percent for minimal additional cost. That, in turn, would substantially reduce the cost of solar electricity.
- Fact sheet: MIT's solar concentrators
In addition to Baldo, the researchers involved are Michael Currie, Jon Mapel, and Timothy Heidel, all graduate students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Shalom Goffri, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics.
"Professor Baldo's project utilizes innovative design to achieve superior solar conversion without optical tracking," says Dr. Aravinda Kini, program manager in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, a sponsor of the work. "This accomplishment demonstrates the critical importance of innovative basic research in bringing about revolutionary advances in solar energy utilization in a cost-effective manner."
Solar concentrators in use today "track the sun to generate high optical intensities, often by using large mobile mirrors that are expensive to deploy and maintain," Baldo and colleagues write in Science. Further, "solar cells at the focal point of the mirrors must be cooled, and the entire assembly wastes space around the perimeter to avoid shadowing neighboring concentrators."
The MIT solar concentrator involves a mixture of two or more dyes that is essentially painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. The dyes work together to absorb light across a range of wavelengths, which is then re-emitted at a different wavelength and transported across the pane to waiting solar cells at the edges.
In the 1970s, similar solar concentrators were developed by impregnating dyes in plastic. But the idea was abandoned because, among other things, not enough of the collected light could reach the edges of the concentrator. Much of it was lost en route.
The MIT engineers, experts in optical techniques developed for lasers and organic light-emitting diodes, realized that perhaps those same advances could be applied to solar concentrators. The result? A mixture of dyes in specific ratios, applied only to the surface of the glass, that allows some level of control over light absorption and emission. "We made it so the light can travel a much longer distance," Mapel says. "We were able to substantially reduce light transport losses, resulting in a tenfold increase in the amount of power converted by the solar cells."
This work was also supported by the National Science Foundation. Baldo is also affiliated with MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
Mapel, Currie and Goffri are starting a company, Covalent Solar, to develop and commercialize the new technology. Earlier this year Covalent Solar won two prizes in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. The company placed first in the Energy category ($20,000) and won the Audience Judging Award ($10,000), voted on by all who attended the awards.
See what the average person can do if government stays out of the way and not taxing us to death?