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A new solar cell...from a 12 year-old

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

So this is just one reason that public education is so important...looks like a 12 year old may be revolutionizing the solar industry.




BEAVERTON, Ore. – A new invention could revolutionize solar energy – and it was made by a 12-year-old in Beaverton.

Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.

It all started with Legos - after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun.

"Solar it seems underused, and there are only a few problems with it," Yuan said.

Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.

"Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once," he said.

And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light.

"I started to realize I was actually onto something," Yuan said.

At first, he couldn't believe his calculations.

"This solar cell can't be generating this much electricity, it can't be absorbing this much extra light," he recalled thinking.

If he is right, solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.

"Which would make solar energy actually a viable energy source for the Pacific Northwest," Yuan said.

While college students have come up with unusual solar cars and the state of Oregon recently unveiled solar panels to power highway lights, Yuan is thinking global.

"It'll have a really positive impact on society and the environment," he said.

His next step is to get a manufacturer and market it.

Yuan is flying out to Washington D.C. on Monday to accept a $25,000 scholarship for his research. He earned the Davidson Fellow award, which is for those 18 and under.


According to an editor's note (after some questioning about intellectual property rights, i.e. did Yuan copy someone else)...Yuan's 3D solar cell is in fact a new invention however, he did base his research off graduate-level work on 3D solar cells at Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.  And apparently he's been working on this since he was 10.  Sure puts my 10 year old science projects to shame.

post #2 of 4

Huh 500 times.  That's pretty hard to believe, but that would sure be awesome if his calculations are right.  Regardless, that's one damn smart kid.

post #3 of 4

this is tres impressive, and also a terrific concept...i'd love to know what those 3-d cells look like....does it change their outer appearance?  how large are we talking?  does it still fit into the same flat paneling space that currently houses 2-d?  not quite clear on the technology.

post #4 of 4

My understanding is that there are some questions about the "500 times" bit - but regardless if it is that much or a bit less, it appears to be a huge improvement...


BRAVO, 12 yr old William - well done!!!

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