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Sarah Vorpahl

Currently, the United States uses more than 3 Terawatts of energy per year. However, only about 12% comes from renewable energy sources. To try and replace at least one third of the energy usage in the US with renewables, researchers will need to find technologies that are cheap, highly efficient and able to be produced on huge scales. Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy on the planet, with enough photons of energy hitting the earth every ten minutes to power the US for one year. However, the current most ubiquitous source of solar cells, silicon, is severely limited by fabrication cost (accounting for 80% of the total cost per panel) due to materials processing. Next generation solar materials using solution processible fabrication techniques, are both cheap and able to be produced on huge scales necessary to have an impact on overall energy production. My work concentrates on a new type of solution processed, hybrid (organic/inorganic) solar cell material called perovskite. I use many types of microscopy to characterize the nanoscale electrical properties of these materials and better understand fundamental scientific questions that can lead to overall improvement in energy conversion efficiency. I mainly use piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) to characterize the local ferroelectric behavior of hybrid perovskite films to better understand its correlation with device performance.

Advisor: David Ginger, Chemistry