Making the case for solar energy

Meet Amy Tapley

PhD Candidate, Department of Chemistry

Supervisor: Dr. Zhifeng Ding

Research Interests:
Use of CuInSNanocrystals in solar cells

Ontario Graduate Scholarship

Assessing the Band Structure of CuInSNanocrystals and Their Bonding with the Capping Ligand, Journal of Physical Chemistry 2015

Nanocrystals and Methods of Preparation Thereof, US Provisional Patent Application, 2012.

"If we collect all the sunlight that hits the Earth in just one hour, we would have enough energy to power the whole world for year." This is the notion that drives the soon-to-be PhD, Amy Tapley, to try and find a new, more marketable solar cell for the energy industry. By using low temperature and low cost solvents, Tapley is creating nano-crystals materials for solar cells that are cleaner, non-toxic, and more affordable.

"Though there are a variety of different solar cells and silicon is most commonly used, they need a lot of material and it is very difficult to get the silicon to the purity that you need for it to work efficiently." As an alternative, Tapley is working with a thin-filmed inorganic, which uses significantly less material than normal silicon-based solar cells.

Tapley spends most of her time working at state-of-the-art facilities, like Western's Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre and Surface Science Western to examine the surface of materials and their properties to ensure the identification of an effective photochemical. Success here will mean effectively lowering the cost of producing solar cells. Equally important, this work is poised to develop an environmentally friendly material transformation process, in keeping with Western's sustainability efforts. Most importantly, realization and the eventual commercialization of this solution may lead to a game-changing approach to energy production in Canada.

Motivated by her supervisor's dream to see solar cells on cars and homes as an alternative source of energy, Tapley is also concerned with scalability. Solar cells can range from the centimeter scale in calculators to much larger options on the rooftops of houses, and to Tapley making these materials work at all scales is one of the one ways to ensure that we move closer to a greener, renewable future.