Clean Challenge semi-finalists Dr. Haiyan Li and Lester Lampert propose applying the special properties of one of the most common types of phytoplankton in the world, diatoms, to solar technology.
Photosynthetic organisms, like diatoms, convert light into usable energy while creating oxygen and organic carbon compounds. In resent research, Lampert and Li have found indications that suggest diatoms may improve light to electricity conversion in solar cells.
Li and Lampert's idea is to incorporate the properties of diatoms into solar cells to promote green energy harvesting. As an added benefit to using diatoms in solar cells, the organic carbon compounds they create can also be harvested and used as a combustible fuel. Lampert and Li would like to develop a system and method for using diatoms to improve the performance of solar panels.
The team plans to use the development grant to test their theories and develop a prototype of a diatom-solar device. If successful, this technology could improve solar cell technologies across the board, lower levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and introduce new technologies for fabricating photo-harvesting diatom frustule films.
Haiyan Li, Ph.D.
Lester Lampert, Ph.D. student, Applied Physics
Dr. Jun Jiao, Faculty Adviser