Lighting Lives

Improving the efficiency of solar cells and decreasing the costs of fabricating them to ultimately push for future commercial use.

Photo of Jasmine Li
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Eligibility: Please confirm you meet all the following criteria

  • You are aged between 14 - 18 as of August 1, 2020
  • You live in the United States or its territories
  • You are not employed by, or directly related (grand parents, parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • You have been working on this project for at least three months
  • You consent to us possibly featuring your work on social media
  • You confirm you have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Eligibility: Date of Birth

August 19, 2002

What gender do you identify with?

  • Female

Help us stay in touch!

phone: 720-343-0725 mailing address: 342 Amethyst Way, Superior, CO 80027

Date You Started Your Project Started

06/27/2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

I am trying to solve the problem of expensive and inefficient solar cells to ultimately push for renewable, long-term, and wide-scale use of photovoltaics as a true alternative to fossil fuels.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I am solving this problem by improving upon 3rd generation solar cells in terms of efficiency and stability. 3rd generation solar cells are cheap and efficient; however, their main limitation is their instability and susceptibility to water, light, and oxygen. Therefore, I wanted to optimize a new fabrication method to ultimately improve the stability and also efficiency at the same time. By solving the instability, these 3rd generation solar cells can become optimal and viable alternatives in terms of cost and efficiency.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

For the past year, my work to optimize these solar cells was all about STEM & the STEM research process. Going into my research, I read tons of literature in the field of photovoltaics, perovskite solar cells (PSCs), and recent advances in the field of PSCs. From examining the most successful preparation techniques and ideal chemical compounds to fabricate each PSC layer in previous literature, I developed a procedure of materials and methods to fabricate control PSC devices. From observing the biggest challenges facing PSCs which included instability and limited efficiency, I developed a plan to utilize a new technique to fabricate the perovskite layer. From there, I needed to test this technique at varying concentrations to analyze if hot-casting was even a viable preparation method. Finally, I practiced the different characterization tests I wanted to perform which included morphology, crystallization, and various PSC parameters such as efficiency. With this organized plan, I proceeded to create, characterize, and analyze PSCs produced conventionally versus via hot-casting in the attempt to ultimately improve the efficiency and stability while lowering the costs of solar cells.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

“My generation has left a mess of the world.It’s up to you guys to fix it,” said my biology teacher during class one day. While being bombarded with news almost everyday on warming oceans, extreme weather events, increased ocean acidification, the extinction of plant and animal species, and continuous global temperature rise, I knew I wanted to be a part of the movement to address the ever-growing problem of global warming and climate change. I couldn’t keep waiting for the adults and leaders of our world to understand the magnitude of the situation we are facing. I wanted to actively pursue solutions, so I set a goal for myself of mitigating the effects of climate change through improving promising renewable energy sources. Aware of the promise of solar cells and my town’s recent interest in trying to implement solar energy for electricity generation, I wanted to research photovoltaics.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

Going into my research on improving solar cell fabrication, I read literature in the field of photovoltaics, literature regarding specifically perovskite solar cells (PSCs), and recent advances in the field of PSCs. From examining the most successful preparation techniques and ideal chemical compounds to fabricate each PSC layer in previous literature, I developed a procedure of materials and methods to fabricate control PSC devices. From observing the biggest challenges facing PSCs which includ

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

My project is different because since it is a comparatively small project and workforce, my target population is more individual & personal focused rather than large-scale industry focused. Also, my mission is deeply rooted in what I hope for the future and solving the biggest problems we face as a collective humanity and less about becoming the most profitable. My approach is in my drive, dream, and determination for a greener, livable future for generations to come.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

Over the last three months, I’ve been able to improve the efficiency of these perovskite solar cells to 16.8% compared to 12.8% reached conventionally. I’ve been able to present my results at several research settings including the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting to other researchers from all around the world, the Corden Pharma Regional Science & Engineering Fair, the 2020 Colorado State Science & Engineering Virtual Fair, and Junior Science & Humanities Symposium. Through these different settings, I have been able to share my work and passion for what I do with other students and also leaders in the field of research, STEM, and photovoltaics.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Currently, I'm working on continuing to improve upon the results I've been able to achieve. Hopefully, in the future, I can expand this fabrication and manufacturing process so that these solar cells can be purchased for personal use in using renewable energy.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Through the various settings that I've shared my research, I've talked about my project to more than 400 students! Though many have gotten excited about the prospects of my work, I am still in the growth phase so I have not officially had people get involved. However, through my involvement in my school's science club, I've inspired other peers to get involved in solar cell research and renewable energy research of their own! The best part has been inspiring others to believe in their ideas.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

The more people involved the better! Research, STEM, and changemaking is all about collaboration and helping each other to change the world for the better. Whether that's taking in feedback and criticism from other changemakers on how to improve or pivot, learning from what's working or not working for other changemakers, or promoting each other's work to spread awareness, I would love to partner with other changemakers to make a difference together.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

I would engage others through creating short but to the point videos on my product and my improvements/findings. Also, I'd combine these videos with engaging, insightful infographics and posters on the benefits of solar technology compared to traditional nonrenewable sources of energy.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support

References

Paul Strode (paul.strode@bvsd.org/720-561-3124) Franny Bentley (francoise.benay@bvsd.org/949-278-0065) Jianliang Li (mcse2000@yahoo.com/303-579-5475)

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine

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6 comments

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Spam
Photo of Antonio
Team

Hello Jasmine! I was really impressed by your project and work thus far. The efficiency improvement you have demonstrated is truly remarkable. I can really tell you are strongly committed to this project. While in college I was a member of my schools solar car team and solar cell efficiency was a really big deal. Since you have data regarding efficiency improvement you could perform some calculations to demonstrate the positive impact this change has (cost or required panel size). This would put this improvement into values someone unfamiliar with the technology would understand. Great project!

Spam
Photo of Jasmine Li
Team

Hello Antonio! Thank you so much! That's amazing that you were involved in solar cell projects as well in college! I will definitely work on incorporating costs and panel sizes with the efficiency improvement -- thanks for the feedback!

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