Increasing efficiency of solar cells with a "pinch" of sugar

Raised of $3,500 Goal
Ended on 9/01/14
Campaign Ended
  • $1,245
  • 36%
  • Finished
    on 9/01/14

About This Project

Graphene Oxide is a new semiconductor material that can help improve solar cells compete with other energy sources, both in energy generation and in energy storage. We are producing GO from sugar and intend to create a transparent conductive layer for use in the solar cell, eliminating the use of silver in the solar cell. This change decreases cost while increasing the overall efficiency of silicon solar cells.

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What is the context of this research?

New materials are required to improve the energy generation and storage capabilities of environmentally-friendly energy generation systems.

The material we are investigating is graphene oxide, which can be derived from organic material such as sucrose, glucose, and even cellulose.

The application we are pursuing is for a transparent conductive electrode for the front contact on a silicon solar cell. Transparent conductive materials are the same type of material that enables touchscreens to operate on your tablets and smart phones.

Silicon solar cells currently use silver strands to collect the charge generated in the solar cell. We are proposing to use a transparent conductive electrode to improve the collection and generation of electricity in standard silicon solar cells.

What is the significance of this project?

Funding in solar cell research has decreased due to the cuts in the research budget for the National Science Foundation. Research on solar cell assembly is increasingly reliant on the local businesses and communities There is a need to advance solar cell research to reduce cost to a competitive level with other forms of energy.

If successful, the research will enable the use of transparent conductive materials on the industry standard solar cell production equipment. The reduced graphene oxide transparent conductive material will be layered on top of industry standard silicon solar cells, producing a increase in solar cell efficiency without a significant increase in cost.

What are the goals of the project?

Our Goal is to produce a method for growing, transferring, and reducing graphene oxide to create a conductive film for use in a solar cell.
Graphene oxide is an inexpensive candidate material for a top transparent layer utilized in a silicon solar cell.
We are following a publication to recreate the results and scale up to production levels.

The graphene oxide will be reduced to improve the conductivity of the material, while still remaining transparent. The transparent conductive layer will be investigated as a top contact for a silicon solar cell. The use of a transparent top contact enables more of the photons coming from the sun to be utilized as electrical energy.


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The funds will be used to design and create a customized autoclave to enable the transfer of uniform graphene oxide sheets onto quartz and silicon wafers.

Funds will be used to characterize the graphene oxide on a Raman system, a Scanning Electron Microscope, and Atomic Force Microscopy equipment.

A number of smaller PTFE parts will be ordered to test the transfer theory before scaling up to the larger system.

Meet the Team

Jacob Kon
Jacob Kon
Electrical Engineering Student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Cleanroom Assistant for Grigg Hall - IEEE Member - Vice President of the UNCC Snowboard Club
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Jason Marmon
Jason Marmon
Yong Zhang
Yong Zhang
Bissell Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Team Bio

Our research group consists of motivated individuals working in the field of Nanoscale Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Our group has access to a Raman Spectrometer and an Optoelectronics Cleanroom, which will aid in creating and measuring advanced quality Graphene Oxide. The wide range of available equipment and the dedication of the researchers give our group the momentum to complete the research project to a high standard.

Jacob Kon

I am an electrical engineering student that desires to contribute to meaningful research in the field of solar power generation and storage. My community involvement is evidenced by my positions as Vice Chair of the Student Chapter of the IEEE at UNC Charlotte. My current plans are to pursue solar cell research after completing my BS in Electrical Engineering.

Jason Marmon

Hi, my name is Jason Marmon and I am a graduate student in the Nanoscale Science Department at UNC Charlotte. My primary research is on low dimensional, e.g. nanowire, class II-VI materials for devices such as solar cells. I am involved in other projects such as characterizing "graphene" oxide for a colleague (Jacob Kon).

Yong Zhang

Dr. Yong Zhang

Bissell Distinguished Professor
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department
Optoelectronics Center
Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC)
Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics and Optical Science
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223

Research Interests:

Emerging and future generation materials and device architectures for energy and related applications (photovoltaics, solid-state-lighting, detector)
Fundamental sciences in solid state physics and electrical engineering
Optical spectroscopy and material growth
Large scale first-principles and empirical electronic structure modeling
Materials of interest: nanostructures, semiconductor superlattices and alloys, inorganic-organic hybrids

Professional Preparation:

Xiamen (Amoy) University, China, Physics, B.S., 1982
Xiamen (Amoy) University, China, Physics, M.S., 1985
Dartmouth College, Physics, Ph.D., 1994


Bissell Distinguished Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, UNC-Charlotte, 4/2009 – present. Faculty members for Optical Science and Engineering program and Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Program at UNC-Charlotte.
Senior Scientist II, Materials and Computational Science Center, NREL, 2006 – 2009.
Senior Scientist I, Center for Basic Sciences, NREL, 1997 – 2005.
Postdoc, Center for Basic Sciences, NREL, 1994 – 1997.
Visiting Researcher, Physics Department, Dartmouth College, 1/1989 – 1/1990.
Researcher, Physics Department, Xiamen (Amoy) University, China, 1987 – 1989.
Engineer, Xiamen United Development Co. Ltd., Xiamen, China, 1985 – 1987.

Additional Information

Picture of as-grown Graphene Oxide sheets:

Linear vibration has affected this growth in an interesting way:

Thin-Film growth, shorter heating period:

Important applications for the use of graphene sheets:

The Supercapacitor Video (GE FOCUS FORWARD)

Solar Cell Fabrication Graphene doping using a Field Effect Transistor (FET) to create a Electron-Phonon Couplinc (EPC) IBM introduces new graphene transistor
Graphene Speaker Fabrication Multi-Junction Solar Cell Diagram

Project Backers

  • 10Backers
  • 36%Funded
  • $1,245Total Donations
  • $124.50Average Donation
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