May 19, 2015
Tagged: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Green AU, Erudition

A Sunnier Future for Solar Energy

News, Publication

by Bonnie Eissner

Thanks in part to generous federal tax breaks, solar energy use in the United States is inching up. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 36 percent of new electric capacity in the United States in 2014 came from solar energy. Another report by The Solar Foundation indicated that solar industry employment grew by 40 percent in New York State in 2014.

Abstract SunThe keys to sustained solar energy growth are greater efficiency and lower costs. That is where chemists like Justyna Widera, Ph.D., an associate professor at Adelphi’s College of Arts and Sciences, play a crucial role. Dr. Widera has devoted a significant portion of her research career to studying and testing materials that will lead to more efficient solar cells.

Most recently, Dr. Widera has teamed up with fellow scientists at the University of Warsaw in Poland to study the electrodeposition of three types of nanoparticles—cadmium, tellurium and cadmium telluride.

More simply put, solar cells, like computer chips, are made of semiconductors. Dr. Widera and her collaborators are studying novel types of semiconducting materials that will maximize energy output. An added benefit of the new materials is that they could make solar cells cheaper and easier to produce. “The semiconductors used for the current state-of-the-art [solar cells] are very expensive because it is difficult to produce them with no defects in the structures,” Dr. Widera said. She pointed out that the materials and synthetic processes that she and her collaborators are proposing will be far more affordable.

Equally exciting, Dr. Widera has involved undergraduates in her research. Last summer, with support from Adelphi’s Horace McDonell Fellowship and the Honors College Summer Research Fellowship, she brought two students— Vivian Matubia and Diana Chaykina—to Poland to conduct research with her and her colleagues. Next summer, she plans to bring two more students to Poland.

Since the summer, Dr. Widera and a colleague have been looking at the effects of adding polymers to the nanoparticles. The next step is to add enzymes to the mix.

Dr. Widera is confident that her accumulated knowledge from past research and future endeavors will pay off in the next generation of solar cells. “Sometimes what happens is you combine all of your knowledge and you come up with one great idea of a novel design of solar cell that’s actually a synthesis of all the different parts you studied before,” she said.

This piece was published in the 2015 issue of Erudition.

About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning.

Adelphi University is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university offering exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training with particular strength in its Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness. Adelphi is dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support student success.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1896, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. Today Adelphi serves nearly 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, and online.

More than 100,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, caring citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

Tagged: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Green AU, Erudition