Devan Solanki is currently an undergraduate student studying Chemistry & Chemical Biology. He is an intern at the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2017, working with Professor Charles Dismukes, Martha Greenblatt, and Erik Garfunkel.
1: Please briefly describe your research. My research area revolves around creating and optimizing low cost, low tech solar cells. The project takes advantage of the light absorbing properties of a class of compounds called perovskites, which get their namesake from the way the constituent atoms in the crystal structure orient themselves. These compounds have shown promise in creating cheap, nontoxic, yet efficient solar cells.
My work takes two focuses. Both are centered around a subgroup of perovskites called double perovskites, which have a unit cell twice the size of a perovskite. The first focus is on Cs2AgBiBr6 which has shown considerable promise in the literature. I am attempting to take this compound and create a complete and functional device that can use light energy and convert it to electricity. What differentiates my work from that of other groups is that I am attempting to fabricate a device that makes use of economical starting materials and does not require sophisticated equipment. My device should be easily manufactured in any university chemistry lab.
My second focus is on the development of novel double perovskites. Using chemical trends and computer software, properties of yet to be synthesized compounds can be predicted. Predictions by scholars at Rutgers and at other institutions elucidate which compounds to pursue. Specific compounds can be synthesized and mixtures of compounds can be engineered to have optical and electrical properties than can be optimized to suit our purposes.
2: How did you come to be involved in this research? I’ve wanted to do research in the field of renewable energy since I was in high school. After doing some of my own research on the interests of the various scholars at Rutgers, I found that the goals of Dismukes group aligned squarely with my own. My arrival at the group coincided with the arrival of a collaborating post-doc, and so my project was born. This summer with the support of the REI I have been working on this project and I am very proud to be a part of it.
3: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? My research seeks to make a low cost and low tech solar cell which can be standalone devices that generate electricity or used in conjunction with other technology to form hydrogen gas. Many areas of the world don’t have access to electricity because they lack modern infrastructure connecting them to the grid. Currently, solar panels can be used to generate electricity in those remote areas, but are simply just too expensive. Low cost perovskite solar cells could bring electricity to those who need it the most.