WSU researcher wins $500K grant to investigate alternative energy


A Wichita State researcher has been awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a new type of low-cost and stable photovoltaics.

Dr. Wei Wei, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator of the project. The research team also includes one collaborative researcher: Dr. Hui Wang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at University of Louisville.

“The current solar panels that are commercially available are quite expensive,” Wei said. “The reason we want to develop a new photovoltaic technology-perovskite photovoltaic is we want to bring the cost down; and at the same time, we want to increase the power conversion efficiency.”

Perovskite photovoltaics are a family of related materials and device architectures produced using various fabrication methods. They are named after the crystal structure of the absorber layer, which is typically an organic-inorganic hybrid. This type of photovoltaics have shown potential for both high performance and low production costs.

Wei and her team of researchers hope that eventually, the perovskite solar cells will be able to be widely used in solar power plants.

Besides the improved efficiency and reduced cost, the perovskite photovoltaics also show great potential to become an integral part of buildings.  

The project will also serve as a valuable applied learning experience for students. As part of the project, Wei has hired two student research assistants.

Tajamul Syed, who’s working toward his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, will be responsible for preparing the electrode materials, fabricating the photovoltaic device, and evaluating the performance of the device. 

“I chose to work with Dr. Wei on this project because solar energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources, and lot of research is being done to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost to make them more stable for long-term use,” Syed said.

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