July 14, 2012
This is Ritankar checking in from Taiwan. The nearby city of Taipei is bustling and the people are very nice. In the past few weeks, I have been working on a research project on novel solar cells in a collaborative venture between the Institute of Chemistry at Academia Sinica, and the department of chemical engineering at National Taiwan University.
My particular foucs concerns a specific step in the life of the electron in a solar cell: charge recombination with the dye (usually from iodine). This project starts with a computational model of a solar cell lodged in a dye and using TD-DFT and coarse-grained Mulliken charge calculations we can find what dyes are most effective in maximizing the rate constant of the recombination: a good indicator of solar cell efficiency as charge recombination is often the rate-limiting step.
The next step in the project is to investigate the synthesis of the dye through different reactionary paths to maximize yield and the final step is to fabricate a solar cell device and test the Voltage-Current density characteristics and measure the ultimate efficiency in the device and manufacture new solar cells that are far more efficient and scalable than those available commercially.
In countries with a high population density like Taiwan, energy sustainability is not a matter of convenience but is a matter of survival and solar cells are one of the few energy sources that have cost efficiencies close enough to fossil fuels to compete in the very near future. It feels great to be making an impact on something so fundamental and applicable!
Outside of the lab, I have become good friends with my lab-mates through daily lunches and language exchange. Additionally, we play basketball weekly and often travel to Taipei city to visit the night markets, enjoy some hot-pot, or watch a movie. I am grateful to the Cal Energy Corps Program for giving me this opportunity to learn about science and its social impact from a global perspective!