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Research student published, contributes to nanotechnology studies

Submitted by Steven Savage on September 19, 2013 – 11:33 amNo Comment

Photo by Steven Savage

Omar Abdulrazzaq, a doctoral student in the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, had his research on organic solar cells published in the Aug. edition of Energy Technology.

“I’m very proud that my work is published,” he said. “My advisor was so proud because this is a high writing journal. This is the first time people used polyaniline as a hole-transport layer, so it’s like original work.”

Abdulrazzaq’s research focuses on an organic compound known as polyaniline. To explain polyaniline, he said, “An example of polymers would plastic, when you go to the grocery store you get the plastic bags. You can either say plastic or polymers. Meaning polymers are a series of atoms that are connected to each other creating a very long chain. The polymer is like a huge molecule, it has thousands of atoms. Polyaniline is one of those polymers or plastics.”

“Our research is devoted to develop some of kind of new solar panels that are made from polymers or plastics,” he said. His research was based on developing a “new generation” of solar cells called organic solar cells.

According to Abdulrazzaq, the plastic material of organic solar cells has features against conventional silicon solar panels. For example, silicon is a synthetic that is brittle, easy to break, stiff, and very expensive. In contrast, organic solar cells are lighter, flexible, inexpensive, and easier to produce.

Photo by Steven Savage

“In the future, we expect all the silicon panels will be replaced by polymers.” he said. “It’s not available commercially yet because it’s a new field of research.” he said.

Abdulrazzaq explained solar cells convert the energy of sunlight into electrical power.

“It’s not like when you burn gas when you turn on your engine, you can add carbon dioxide to the environment,” he said. “Solar cells are a very clean source that just absorbs the light and converts it into electrical energy directly, without any side additives.”

Global warming and issues with the environment have caused many people to resort to “going green.” Abdulrazzaq said using the energy of the sun as a green source of energy. He said researchers are looking forward to finding key sources of energy, which is why people are turning to solar cells as an alternative to oil.

Before he came to UALR, Abdulrazzaq worked for 15 years on solar cells. He used to work on conventional solar cells, fabricating silicon solar cells as mass production for consumers. When he arrived at UALR, he said he wanted to continue working on solar cells. He said he had to find a new topic because there was already so much research on silicon solar cells. He knew there was some additional research on organic solar cells and he wanted to find a solution for its problem.

“I’m not the first to work on polyaniline,” he said. “I got a lot of help from my colleagues. They set the standard on how to synthesize polyaniline.”

Abdulrazzaq shows no signs of stopping his contribution to the energy industry. “I usually tell myself that I’ve just started,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things to do and my work being published in Energy Technology is a first step towards a bigger work called tandem solar cells.”

According to Abdulrazzaq, tandem solar cells are a stack of solar cells. He said he is thinking of using polyaniline as another application to connect the cells. “Researchers focus on tandem solar cells because they give more power efficiency compared to silicon solar cells because it has several cells connected together and each cell contributes more power,” he said. “The problem is how to connect these individual cells and my goal is to use polyaniline because of its characteristics.”

Abdulrazzaq said he is confident to use polyaniline successfully as a buffer layer to connect all of the individual cells to build his tandem cells in the future, which should be next year.

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