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Dr Mwende Mbilio, an Rsif PhD graduate, shines light on the future of solar energy

Sakina Kahindi
24 Jun 2024 0

Imagine a world where capturing the sun’s energy is as easy as laying down a sheet. This isn’t science fiction – it’s the future our recent PhD graduate, Dr Mwende Mbilo, is helping to create with their groundbreaking research on Organic Solar Cells (OSCs). Her thesis, “Design of efficient and stable non-fullerene acceptor-based Organic solar cells by buffer layer modification,” tackles a critical challenge: Revolutionizing Solar Energy.

These innovative solar cells are lightweight, flexible, and potentially much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon panels. However, a major hurdle remains – their lifespan. Current OSCs degrade too quickly under sunlight and heat, limiting their practical use.

Mwende’s research tackles this challenge head-on. Her thesis focused on improving the efficiency and stability of OSCs by modifying a critical layer called the Electron Transport Layer (ETL). This layer plays a key role in collecting electricity generated by sunlight within the solar cell.

Here’s the ingenious part: De Mwende explored using commercially available ultraviolet resins to modify the ETL material. These resins act like a protective shield, achieving several crucial goals:

  • Enhanced Contact: The resins improve the connection between the ETL and the light-absorbing layer, leading to more efficient electricity flow.
  • Fine-Tuning Energy Levels: The resins adjust the energy levels within the cell, ensuring smooth electron movement.
  • Reduced Defects: The resins fill in tiny imperfections on the ETL surface, minimizing energy loss.
  • Improved Stability: The resins shield the ETL from sunlight damage and heat, extending the lifespan of the OSC.

The results are promising! By using these resins, Dr Mwende was able to significantly improve the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of OSCs, meaning they convert more sunlight into electricity. Additionally, the modified OSCs demonstrated better resistance to light and heat, paving the way for a more durable and long-lasting solar technology.

This research aligns perfectly with the African Union’s 2024 Year of Education theme. By tackling energy challenges through innovative research, [Student Name] is not only contributing to a brighter future for their home country but for all of sub-Saharan Africa. Stay tuned for more stories about our exceptional graduates and the ground breaking research that’s shaping a more sustainable tomorrow!