Awards Database

Scialog: Collaborative Teams - 2012

So Hirata

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Song Jin

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jiangeng Xue

University of Florida Department of Materials Science and Engineering

BaSI2 - a NEW earth-Abundant Solar Cell Material

The long-term goal of fundamental research into photovoltaics (PV), which converts sunlight directly into electricity, is to create solar panels that compete against conventional fossil fuels to fulfill the already massive and ever-growing power needs of future generations. To achieve this goal, solar scientists are focusing on low-cost, earth-abundant materials. RCSA’s Scialog program is funding a collaborative research project with Jiangeng Xue, an associate professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Song Jin, associate professor of chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and So Hirata, professor and alumni research scholar,chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The team is designing and testing BaSi2, a compound of barium and silicon, respectively the 14th- and second-most abundant elements in earth’s crust, for use as the light-absorbing material in solar cells. The source for much of the raw material for this project can be diatomaceous earth, basically the silica shells of diatoms, one of the most common types of phytoplankton. Diatomaceous earth is used in large quantities as filters in food processing, beer making and pharmaceuticals. Although it is thought to have several key physical properties that make it ideal as a light absorber, relatively little is actually known about the barium-silicon compound, both in terms of its suitability for solar energy applications and the most efficient methods to synthesize it . “The team hopes to better understand the properties of this promising solar cell material and exploit it through experimental and computational work,” Xue said .

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