Developing a New Generation of Solar Panels
Andrew Szatkowski ’15, a chemistry major, is spending part of the summer doing cutting-edge research on solar cell technology as an intern with the Thomas Bein group at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. The internship was awarded through the non-profit German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD), and is funded through the Class of 1964 Internship Support Fund.
DAAD scholarships are highly competitive and recipients are selected by independent selection committees on the basis of outstanding academic records and convincing project proposals or statements of purpose.
Szatkowski found his internship through the American Chemical Society’s website, which connected him with DAAD and began correspondences with Enrico Greul, a Ph.D. student, and Dr. Pablo Docampo.
Describing his work, Szatkowski said, “I’m working on thin film lead halide perovskite solar cells,” a developing type of solar cell technology “that has made unprecedented efficiency gains within the last two years. We’re using different cations… in order to obtain different optical and photoluminescent properties,” he explained.
Although perovskite solar cells won’t be commercially available for another few years, “they already match traditional silicon solar cells in efficiency,” clearly having “direct applicability on the consumer end,” Szatkowski noted.
While he has certainly deepened his understanding of chemistry through his research, what he “learned the most about, however, is the general culture and expectations of academic research,” he explained.
“Seeing the hours people put in,” he continued, “and the universal problems that Ph.D. researchers face has been very helpful and a bit sobering,” he continued. Of note, is how quickly research is published. In fact “perovskite solar cells have become one of the fastest publishing fields in chemistry,” Szatkowski stated.
In the past six months, Docampo, his advisor in Munich, has been “scooped” twice, the term that describes when one researcher’s project becomes obsolete by consequence of a different researcher publishing first.
Szatkowski has enjoyed his time in the lab, though he is currently undecided about what he will do after graduation. For the time being, he is researching graduate programs in chemistry.
Andrew Szatkowski is a graduate of Bonny Eagle High School, (Maine).