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Research Projects

Concentrated Photovoltaics

Research focusing on the development of concentrating systems for solar photovoltaic devices began at the University of California, Merced in 2005. Through both funding and collaboration with public and private organizations, our research has led to the development of products that are currently entering the marketplace. These concentrating devices greatly enhance the efficiency of photovoltaic cells and permit the use of lower-cost materials in the fabrication of solar cell devices. [read more] 

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal systems operate by using sunlight to raise the temperature of an oil medium as high as 400° F or a molten salt to temperatures exceeding 1,800° F. The energy captured in this process is stored in the form of heat that can later be used in a number of applications ranging from large-scale electric power generation to simply heating water for home use. This capacity to store energy at a lower relative cost is a key advantage that solar thermal systems have over photovoltaic systems. [read more] 

Contamination and Cleaning of Solar Collectors

Soiling is the phenomena of accumulation of dirt on solar collectors, which blocks or deflects sunlight and significantly reduce the performance of the solar energy systems. We will systematically study soiling and cleaning processes and their effect on the performance of solar systems.  Synergistic lab and field experiments and complementary numerical simulations will be conducted to investigate particle deposition, adhesion and mitigation under natural or artificial wind conditions, which will be applied for performance forecasting and optimal design of cleaning methods. [read more]

Nanopillar Photovoltaics

Solar energy represents one of the most abundant and yet least-harvested source of renewable energy. In recent years, tremendous progress has been made in developing photovoltaics (PVs) that can be potentially mass employed. [read more]

Nanostructured Photovoltaics

We are working on the design and development of solar cells and solar concentrators which will utilize nanoscale materials for converting solar energy into electrical power. The nanoparticles we use in our research are semiconducting quantum dots grown by chemical synthesis. These include dots of different materials and sizes, with optical and structural properties varying over a wide range. In particular, we are focusing on narrow band-gap semiconductor quantum dots with emission energies in the infra-red. [read more]


You are probably reading this, sitting in a room, illuminated by several conventional lights which are all consuming an abundant amount of energy—with the sun glaring outside! Our plan is to bring the free sunlight from outside, inside! Using our solar concentration technology we can direct daylight into buildings. [read more] 

Thermoelectric Materials

More efficient materials are needed to expand the commercial applications of thermoelectric devices. CoSb3 is the most promising thermoelectric material to replace PbTe-based alloys. The binary skutterudite compound cobalt triantimonide CoSb3 is particularly interesting because it displays remarkable electrical properties. The overall performance of this material remains however low due to an excessive value of its lattice thermal conductivity. [read more]

All-Carbon Solar-Driven Water Splitting

The high-level goal of this research is to achieve high performance, all-carbon, solar-driven water splitting by understanding the synergistic co-assembly of earth abundant fullerenes (C60s), semiconducting single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) using graphitic nano-surfactants with engineered geometry-driven function. We employ novel experimental techniques and unconventional device architectures guided by fundamental modeling. [read more]

Minichannel-based Solar Collectors

Solar thermal systems provide the capability of generating heat, electric power, and/or cooling in a sustainable way and for a variety of applications due to the relatively large range of temperatures that different collector configurations provide. Currently, a key issue that remains a subject of intense research relates to effectively transferring the energy obtained from the sun to the working fluid. Increasing the efficiency of solar water heaters has the potential to have a high impact on the consumption of natural gas and other fuels in the residential and commercial sector. [read more]

Solar Fuel Conversion

Sunlight and seawater are the ultimate and sustainable energy sources on earth, and together they constitute a potential solution to the global energy crisis, which at the same time can reduce the carbon emission due to the use of fossil fuels. A photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell utilizes solar energy to directly split water and generate H2, which is clean and free of carbon emission. However, it is broadly recognized by the PEC community that there is no single material can be the perfect photoelectrode candidate for solar water splitting with respect to light absorption, water reduction, chemical stability, etc. [read more]

Advanced Solution Processable Photovoltaics Research

Solar is the most abundant renewable energy source. One hour of solar energy on earth is equivalent to the world annual energy consumption. The relatively high cost of solar energy conversion compared to that of fossil sources is still a major hurdle preventing the widespread adoption of PV technologies. Therefore, cost reduction is key. To reduce the cost of solar energy conversion, our work includes the development of polymer and solution process small molecule solar cells and the development of solution process inorganic solar cells. [read more]

Full-Spectrum Photovoltaic-Photothermal Concentrator System

Using power from the sun to replace the current massive use of fossil fuel to power the planet is truly a modern day “Holy Grail” for future energy economies. At an average solar irradiance of 1.76 x 1017 watts, solar power is a near-infinite source of terrestrial power. If solar power could be economically and resourcefully converted to other useful energy and power sources, it would allow earth to migrate from generating a huge carbon footprint, due to fossil fuel use, to being carbon neutral. [read more]