Colorado State Researchers Add to Collaboratory Research

Four Colorado State University science projects are part of a broader effort to convert the sun’s energy to clean, low-cost electricity and fuels. The Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion, or CRSP, the newest research center of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, recently handed out grants totaling more than $1.1 million for novel solar research projects.

The four Colorado State projects involving researchers in chemistry, chemical and biological engineering and physics received grants totaling $375,000.

Colorado State researchers Eugene Chen, Travis Bailey, Steve Strauss and Olga Boltalina are joined by physicist Nikos Kopidakis at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, in Golden, Colo., in one of the projects that involves providing clean energy without adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Chen said the project is aimed at developing revolutionary organic photovoltaic polymers. "The CSU/NREL team aims to significantly increase the efficiency of organic photovoltaic solar cells through controlling active-layer morphologies and electronic structures," Chen said.

Another CSU project is designed to develop inexpensive, thin films that are placed inside solar panels and are capable of producing electrical current. "We’re trying to find a material that would be an efficient material for solar cells that contains only earth-abundant, non-toxic elements," said chemistry Professor Amy Prieto. "There is still much to be understood about how the material we’re now using works – how it absorbs photons and converts them to current."

A third project involves developing semiconductor nanocrystals, which are developed from inexpensive materials and have the ability to absorb energy from sunlight, then transport that energy in the form of electricity. "A photovoltaic device based on semiconductor nanocrystals could be much more efficient in converting sunlight to electricity than other devices currently in use," said chemistry Professor Alan Van Orden. "We also hope to better understand the process of how ‘charge carriers,’ which contribute to the electricity generated within a photovoltaic device, hop between nanocrystals."  

A fourth CSU project is designed to better understand and control plasma processing in relation to film properties and interfaces in organic, polymeric and hybrid solar cells.

The Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion was launched in April 2008 to conduct basic and applied research that will lead to the development of new solar energy technologies or advance existing systems for direct solar energy conversion that will be both highly efficient and cost-effective to produce.

CRSP also supports education and research opportunities to develop the workforce to support the new energy economy.      

The four collaboratory institutions involved are Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, the University of Colorado-Boulder and NREL.

Fourteen companies now belong to CRSP: Applied Materials Inc., Ascent Solar Technologies, DuPont, Evident Technologies, General Motors, Konarka, Lockheed Martin, Motech Industries, QuantumSphere, Sharp, Solasta, Sub-One Technology, SunEdision and Toyota.