Target: Qiaoqiang Gan, Assistant Professor at the University of Buffalo
Goal: Praise engineer Qiaoqiang Gan for developing a potentially affordable and more efficient solar panel.
One of the main barriers that has kept alternative sources of energy from making their way into homes across the nation is their affordability. There currently is not enough demand, and the cost of manufacturing products like solar panels remains too high. A professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo may have come up with a solution to this problem by developing a photovoltaic cell for solar panels that is not only more powerful, but also much cheaper to manufacture than any of the products currently on the market. His discovery could make alternative energy possible for homeowners everywhere and deserves our support.
Solar panels are currently produced using either polycrystalline silicon wafers or thin-film solar cells made of inorganic materials such as silicon and cadmium. Either option is incredibly expensive to manufacture, keeping them from a larger market. Qiaoqiang Gan, however, is using organic materials such as polymers and small carbon-based molecules that are ultimately more cost-effective. Gan has stated that “Compared with their inorganic counterparts, organic photovoltaics can be fabricated over large areas on rigid or flexible substrates potentially becoming as inexpensive as paint.” What he means here by “paint” isn’t necessarily that the cost will be so cheap, although it is a possibility, but rather how practical and applicable the cells would be. These organic photovoltaic materials don’t currently match traditional solar cells in terms of energy production, but because they are processed in liquid form, they can be applied to a wide variety of surfaces like paint and are also significantly cheaper because of reduced manufacturing costs.
The drawback to these cells is that they have to be applied thinly due to their poorer conductive properties compared to traditional cells. Because they are thin they don’t have as much material to absorb and store light, therefore reducing their power conversion efficiency. Gan’s current research indicates that the organic cells need to be 10% more efficient in order to compete with the current standards. To reach this goal, Gan and other researchers are preparing to incorporate metal nanoparticles into organic photovoltaic cells. These nanoparticles will produce oscillating electromagnetic waves and free electrons that will dramatically increase the material’s conductivity. Despite current shortcomings, Gan believes his team of researchers will soon have a new and affordable solar cell that also surpasses the efficiency of the current cells on the market. Sign the petition to commend Gan and his team for their innovative work.
Dear Professor Gan,
Your team of researchers at the University of Buffalo is currently working on producing an organic solar cell that will be more efficient than those currently available to the public. Not only will it be more affordable, it will also be more versatile by being produced in liquid form, thus, allowing it to be applied to nearly any surface.
Your current estimates indicate that your new cells need to be roughly 10% more efficient than they presently are in order to meet the same standards as inorganic photovoltaic cells. I have no doubt that you will achieve this goal. Thank you so much for your contributions to alternative energy. I fully support your research and hope that you reach your goal of creating a more efficient and cheaper solar panel so that we might one day soon see alternative energy being used in homes across the country.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: aaron_anderer via Flickr