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06/26/2018 Interview > Faculty

Title

Increasing the Efficiency of Solar Batteries

A breakthrough in the long combat against global warming

이창현

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http://www.hanyang.ac.kr/surl/UBgd

Contents
Global warming is a clear threat to the human race. After long disputes over the validity of the phenomenon for nearly a quarter of a century, it has been revealed after an investigation of the fossil fuel industry that global warming is a real threat. The past scientific disputes had in fact been a result of interventions by the industry to protect their business. So what now? Aside from bringing justice to these corporations, one of the biggest assignments facing humanity is the creation of sustainable energy. For this task, the recent finding by Professor Park Jea-gun (Department of Electronic Engineering) has shed a new light of hope.
 
Park Jea-gun (Department of Electronic Engineering) explains global warming.

Simply put, Professor Park found a new way to improve the power conversion efficiency of our standard solar batteries. However, the process had been far from simple, and many complications had confronted Park on his journey. Solar power is among the few established sources of sustainable energy, which include tidal, wind, and hydraulic power. However, despite the research and development of solar batteries over the past 20 years, the highest power conversion efficiency, meaning the rate of the electrical energy that is converted from its original form, remained a staggering two percent. Park’s research had raised this rate to 4.11 percent. 

To give a brief explanation on the mechanics of solar energy, sunlight includes three types of rays: ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, and visible rays. These rays are projected in a form of waves, which are essentially energy. Currently, our solar batteries convert only visible rays, which is where Park began questioning a possible improvement. What Park did was to install quantum dots, a core semiconductor that is capped by an outer cell, on the silicone surface of the standard solar battery. A size smaller than 10 nanometers, quantum dots convert UV rays into visible rays, a process referred to as ‘energy-down-shift’. With this conversion, solar batteries could begin to convert a proportion of UV rays. 
 
An illustration of how a quantum dot converts UV rays for solar batteries
(Photo courtesy of Park)

This initial finding, published in 2014, improved the power conversion efficiency of solar batteries to three percent. Park was yet to be satisfied. Building on the scientific fact that the yield of energy from visible rays are greatest in the colors red and green, Park quickly moved to improve the new model. The problem was that the standard quantum dots converted UV rays to blue visible rays. Park resorted another process of quantum mechanics called ‘energy tuning’, which allowed the standard quantum dot to finally convert UV rays in a yellowish light, well between the rays of red and green. His new finding improved the power conversion efficiency to four percent. 

Now comes the final stage of Parks recent journey. Although his improvements to the standard solar battery was immensely significant, one flaw of his model was that it was composed of cadmium, a heavily regulated material. To make his model feasible for commercialized use, Park had to find a replacement for cadmium, which he found in a material called gallium. With his new improvement, Park’s research had been recognized and published in one of the most internationally renowned scientific journal, Advanced Energy Materials.
 
Park’s research had been recognized and published in Advanced Energy Materials.

As a word of advice to students aspiring to follow a scientific career, Park emphasized the importance of attitude. According to Park, the rate of development of scientific technology has grown exponentially within the past few decades. Students need to be aware of this, and needs to make an effort to follow recent discoveries and trending methods as opposed to focusing on traditional learning through textbooks. He also advised students to be well studied in software technologies, as they have grown much more significant in all domains of engineering. “The key is fundamental base, and a prepared attitude,” commented Park.




Lee Chang-hyun                pizz1125@hanyang.ac.kr
Photo by Park Geun-hyung
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