Solar cells brighten University’s future

Jesper Bekkers and Jesper Bekkers

Solar cells 3.0 is the future, and the University is working on it. Post doctoral fellow Xichen Cai, 39, got a Delta Electronics Fellow working on the next generation of solar cells. Delta Electronics is the world’s largest provider of switching power supplies, according to their Web site. Cai is the first in the University Center for Photochemical Sciences with this fellowship, and a member in the laboratory of Douglas Neckers, the director of the chemistry department.’ ‘We work on the next generation of solar cells,’ Cai said. ‘One that is [economical], with high efficiency.’ The fellowship does not only benefit Cai; it also benefits the Photochemical Sciences Center. ‘With this fellow the Center will receive $250,000 over five years,’ Neckers said. ‘The money is meant to construct the basis for breakthrough discoveries. We can do more experiments.’ In his cubical, Cai explained how the new generation would be different from the previous ones. ‘These were expensive and inefficient,’ he said. ‘The new solar cells should be like a sheet of paper; light weight and flexible.’ Cai said that generation 3.0 could be applied within 10 to 15 years on a large scale. ‘We need to have first a breakthrough in our basic study,’ he said. ‘I think this will be within five to 10 years.’ Cai’s fellowship was founded in 1990 by Bruce Cheng, founder of Delta Electronics. Only senior-level doctoral or postdoctoral students with a Chinese heritage in photochemical sciences are eligible to get this fellowship.