Bulovic Group: Richard Lunt

Meet Richard Lunt, postdoctoral associate in the ONE-Lab (and with the Research Laboratory of Electronics, RLE) since fall, 2010. In the lab, Richard has focused on developing molecular, organic, and nanostructured photovoltaics.

Richard, please give us a bit of your background which led you to your post doctoral position in the ONE-Lab with Prof. Bulovic and your upcoming plans.

Richard Lunt:
“After earning my B.Ch.E. with honors in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2004, I received my doctorate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 2010. In the Fall of 2011 I will be starting as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University.

As a graduate researcher I worked on the growth and characterization of crystalline organic films, organic single crystals, organic-organic epitaxy and the effect of morphology on energy migration, work for which I received the GPEC Solar Energy innovation Award.”

You were noted (and photographed!) by the MIT News Office (April 15, 2011 article titled “Turning windows into powerplants”) for your work developing new solar cells that will be applicable to window surfaces — while allowing both clear visibility for buildings and adaptability to current window manufacturing practices. Can you describe this work?

“The work on transparent photovoltaics was initiated by me and has, yes, been featured, in addition to the MIT homepage, on MSNBC and CBS Boston, in the NYTimes, in Forbes, and in Canadian Business (with links listed at the end of this article). The Transparent Organic Photovoltaics for Window Applications (which appears online in Applied Physics Letters is described briefly as follows:

The low energy density of solar illumination necessitates deployment of solar technologies over large surface areas in order to capture enough of the sun’s energy to offset a significant portion of non-renewable energy consumption. The obstacle of large-area deployment could be overcome with development of a low-cost, transparent, photovoltaic (PV) technology that can be integrated onto window panes in homes, skyscrapers, and automobiles, enhancing the functionality of already utilized transparent surfaces. Since glass, structural framing, and inverters comprise nearly 40% of thin-film PV module price, integrating solar cells in windows can also reduce effective installation costs. Presently, window glass used in automobiles and in architectural installations requires 70-80% and 55-90% transmission to visible light, respectively. Previous efforts to construct semitransparent devices have focused on the use of thin active layers (or spatially segmented films) with light absorption focused in the visible spectrum and therefore have been limited to either low efficiencies or low average visible-light transmissivity since both parameters cannot be simultaneously optimized.

Here we demonstrate an additive transparent organic PV technology that can similarly retain the glass transparency, where the non-transmitted light in the near-infrared would be utilized for power generation. To do this, we exploit the excitonic character of organic and molecular semiconductors to produce photovoltaic architectures with structured absorption. Combining these PVs with selective high-reflectivity near-infrared mirrors, we demonstrate a prototype transparent device with a power conversion efficiency of several percent while also permitting more than 60% transmission of visible light through the entire device. Finally, we demonstrate that a series-integrated array of these transparent cells is capable of powering electronic devices under near-ambient lighting, making them highly useful for distributed and point-of-source utilization of solar energy.

I am also working on developing quantum dot photovoltaics, in collaboration with Patrick Brown (of the Bulovic group) and Mounji Bawendi. All of these projects are aimed at finding ways to change the cost structure of solar cell deployment and make solar energy ubiquitous.”

Although, you will have been at MIT working with Prof. Bulovic and others for less than a year, you have been exposed to some very intense research labs. How have you found this experience?

Richard Lunt:
“There is a fantastic community of researchers at MIT that fosters a number of great collaborations. In my experience, MIT is unique in this level of interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Specifically Vladimir is a fantastic researcher. He has the unique vision and creativity to make science both approachable and consequential.

The Organic and Nanostructured Electronics (ONE) Lab is a great example of what a laboratory should be. We look to understand the governing material science and photophysical principals, and apply this in order to make something useful; something that can really add benefit to society. It is a great combination of fundamental science and application.”

What can you leave us with in terms of your passion for developing solar energy, and how it might fit into the big picture in time?

Richard Lunt:
“There is enough solar energy to power the country and the world. But we do not do this. The reason is cost. What we try to do is re-envision ways to deploy solar cells through unique and lightweight architectures that allow us to redefine the cost structure of solar cell installation.”

Below are links to various articles/videos related to the transparent PV:
1) CBS Boston, including video of Dr. Lunt and Prof. Bulovic describing the new solar window PVs.

2) Cosmic Log on MSNBC

3) Green: A Blog About Energy and The Environment: “Transparent Photovoltaic Cells Turn Windows Into Solar Panels” by John Collins Rudolf for the NYTimes.

4) Forbes April 16, 2011, “Glass-Like Solar Cells Set Stage for Power-Producing Windows” by William Pentland.

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