Scott Bechler, 2017, Geosciences

The focus of my project this summer was to determine the environmental effects that a new solar material, organometal (lead) halide perovskites, could have if it was used commercially. This solar material has seen rapid increases in efficiency, but it is still unstable compared with its counterparts, silicon based solar panels, which are currently in use today. Furthermore, the new material contains lead, which is toxic and could cause serious consequences if released into the environment. This summer I worked in Guyot Hall on campus and leached functional solar cells (with efficiencies of about 8%) with synthetic rainwater. The solar cells were received from a collaborator at the University of Washington, and the formulas for the synthetic rainwaters came from the Environmental Protection Agency and have been used on solar panel waste in the past. I found that large amounts of lead were leached from these solar cells, so my goal in the future is to try to optimize the structure of the solar cell so that we can maximize its efficiency while minimizing its environmental effects. After this incredible opportunity working in the Geosciences Department, I decided to pursue geosciences as my concentration. I plan to continue working with my advisor on this project.