delware environmental institute

Refining solar power: UD student's research may help increase solar cell efficiency

Refining solar power: UD student's research may help increase solar cell efficiency

Stephen Mulligan, a University of Delaware senior studying mechanical engineering, has co-authored a paper explaining the effects of gas flow on newly developed solar cells. The paper, entitled “Hybrid Effect of Gas Flow and Light Excitation in Carbon/Silicon Schottky Solar Cells,” appeared recently in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Written during Mulligan’s two-month student exchange trip to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, last summer, the paper investigates the behavior of carbon/silicon solar cells and how the presence of gas flow results in enhanced cell efficiency. These cells could then act as improved gas flow sensors.

Other co-authors include Guifeng Fan, a doctoral student at Tsinghua University; Hongwei Zhu, Mulligan’s adviser abroad and laboratory supervisor; and Bingqing Wei, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mulligan’s UD adviser.

Using a solar simulator, Mulligan and his team shined artificial sunlight on a series of solar cells to obtain a source of power, or voltage. They then blew gas, such as nitrogen, over the solar cells and noticed that their temperature lowered. This lower temperature, in turn, increased the solar cell’s efficiency by 5-10 percent, which is “quite the jump,” according to Mulligan.