Providing Cheap Electricity with the Sun’s Help
While most of us were counting on inkjet printers for research papers and pizza ovens and nail polish for dates, Nicole Kuepper was making history with all of the above. The 23-year-old PhD Engineering student at the University of New South Wales, Australia has cooked up a process to drastically reduce the cost of producing photovoltaic solar cells.
The young scientist has been awarded two Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the highest scientific award in the country. Because of her breakthrough, she and others envision providing renewable energy within the next five years to millions of people in some of the world’s poorest developing countries.
The process uses a simple inkjet printer to spray acetone in an exact pattern onto a nail-polish-coated silicon wafer. It’s not the polish you’d buy at the salon, but it has similar components. The wafer is then covered with an aluminum spray and baked at about 550 degrees Fahrenheit.