Dr. Yi Cui is a genius. Learning a little about this modest Materials Science assistant professor from Stanford University gives one an insight to how and why the CleanTech sector is the most relevant in the world, and how significantly our lives can and will change in the near future.
Take a look at some of the more notable developments to come from Dr. Cui’s laboratory in the last two years alone:
1) Store bought paper can be turned into a battery electrode simply by dipping it into carbon-nanotube inks that Dr. Cui developed. The coated paper and its electrodes, which are highly conductive and folds like all paper does, is now able to be used as a storage device for a variety of applications including portable electronics such as laptops or for grid storage applications. While the idea is not for people to create their own batteries with their home paper, commercial applications of this development would take advantage of the much cheaper input costs. See video here:
2) A paper released by Dr. Cui in December, 2007, describing a lab development using silicon nanowires to increase the charge capacity of lithium ion batteries by 10 times. This novel application of nanowires and the corresponding application of the increased storage are remarkable to say the least. It was this paper that gave Dr. Cui the notoriety, awards and funding he has today. See his Stanford website for more on this.
3) Building on the Dec. 2007 study, a new study released in January 2009 continues forward by demonstrating a Si crystalline-amorphous (c-a) core-shell NW design resulting in significant improvement over power rate and cycling life. This essentially improved the toughness and durability of the electrodes in the original study, giving them higher commercialization applicability. (90% capacity retention over 100 cycles)
4) Cui improved the efficiency of thin film solar cells by demonstrating that solar cells patterned at the nanoscale with domed structures absorb more light and, as a bonus, are self-cleaning. “These nanodome structures not only repel water, but help trap light. Because they’re so small–about 500 nanometers in diameter–the nanodomes interact with light in a cool way, absorbing 94 percent of all light from the infrared to the ultraviolet. A flat solar cell made from the same materials absorbs only 65 percent of light in the same broad spectrum. So far the overall power conversion efficiency of the cells is 5.9 percent. Dr. Cui says these patterning techniques could be applied to other solar materials. This work is described online in the journal Nano Letters.”
Dr. Cui already has an agreement with investors to commercialize his laboratory work and is currently doing so. It would take days and several other blogs to fully discuss the implications of the 4 developments above, as well as many others not shown here by Dr. Cui. While there are very few people as talented and brilliant as this professor, there are an army of people tackling the issues we discuss regularly on the blog- giving us the bullish and optimistic beliefs we have in the sector. The professor could easily leave Stanford and focus on commercialization of his work however his true passion is teaching- which is why he currently has no plans to leave Stanford University.