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Students Conceive Next-Gen Solar Cells

SDSU graduate engineering students win a fellowship to help bring innovative product to market.
A 2-by-2 centimeter organic solar cell produced in SDSU MEMS Research Lab.
A 2-by-2 centimeter organic solar cell produced in SDSU MEMS Research Lab.

A novel approach for solar cell technology earned a team of SDSU graduate engineering students a prestigious fellowship to pursue bringing the product to market.

SDSU Graduate students in the lab
Graduate students (L-R) Beejal Mehta, Mieko Hirabayashi, Mihir Parikh, Shanel Miller, and mechanical engineernig Prof. Sam Kassegne.

The product — 3-D, flexible, organic photovoltaic cells — could revolutionize solar cell use, including design-friendly integration into windows, buildings and portable consumer electronics.

The product also demonstrates a twofold increase in efficiency in converting sunlight to energy over conventional 2-D cells.

“We have developed a great technology and this fellowship allows us to take the next important steps of commercializing this product and bringing it to the market - it is a rare opportunity not always available to researchers,” said SDSU team member Shanel Miller.

“As a team we are all very driven by our deep concern for the environment.  I feel fortunate to be developing clean energy alternatives and working on state-of-the-art solar technology with an incredibly talented multidisciplinary team who has always been there to provide support and inspiration.”


More about the fellowship

The SDSU team is one of three 2011 winners of the $45,000 von Liebig Center Fellowship.  The other fellowship awardees include two teams from the University of California, San Diego.
  
The winners will use the money in the next year to conduct proof-of-concept studies, technology development and preliminary market research to determine the commercial feasibility of their projects.

The fellowships were announced July 20 after deliberations from a panel composed of local experts from the private sector and investment community.

...commercializing this product and bringing it to the market ... is a rare opportunity not always available to researchers.

“In addition to meeting certain milestones toward commercialization, we expect that the fellowship will offer a great opportunity for these students to pick up skills in entrepreneurship as well as turning basic scientific research that we do in universities such as ours into commercial products,” said Sam Kassegne, a mechanical engineering professor at SDSU.

The sentiment was echoed by James P. Avery, senior vice president of power supply for San Diego Gas & Electric.”

“Forward-thinking ideas that will increase energy-efficiency and the growth of renewables, while decreasing our customers’ carbon footprint is exactly what our region needs,” said Avery, who served on the expert review panel. 

 “Our residential customers are adopting solar quicker than any city in California, and SDG&E has signed 14 contracts since the beginning of the year for 1,225 megawatts of renewable energy so the solutions these projects provide could be put to great use.”

More about the SDSU Team

The SDSU team will focus its fellowship efforts on completing a fully functional production line to manufacture its solar cells on a larger scale.

SDSU team members include:

•    Shanel Miller
•    Beejal Mehta
•    Mihir Parikh
•    Kadir Toksoy
•    John Waynelovich

They developed the underlying solar cell technology, manufacturing process and the manufacturing equipment to produce their solar cells at a significantly reduced cost.

Von Liebig Fellows  will receive  business mentoring  from  the von Liebig Center’s technology and business advisors and are teamed with one to three MBA Fellows from the Rady School of Management or SDSU, who will provide business model development while learning about technology development by working with the von Liebig Fellows.

Funding for this program has been made possible by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Other program partners include CONNECT and CleanTECH San Diego.


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