On June 27, MIT Technology Review announced the annual list of Innovators Under 35. Among the 35 inventors, six of them are from China, and assistant professor Huanping Zhou of the College of Engineering, Peking University is one of them.
Started in 1999, MIT Technology Review selects a list of the most promising young innovators around the world. They’re inquisitive and persistent, inspired and inspiring. No matter whether they’re pursuing medical breakthroughs, refashioning energy technologies, making computers more useful, or engineering cooler electronic devices—and regardless of whether they are heading startups, working in big companies, or doing research in academic labs—they all are poised to be leaders in their fields.
Each year, the list will have as many as 600 candidates, and 100 candidates will be screened after the initial review of the first round of the MIT Technology Review editorial team. Then, a jury of 36 experts from various fields conducted the final selection. This year's judges covered experts in the fields of artificial intelligence, biomedicine, nanotechnology, electronic hardware and energy.
The list is divided into five categories, including -Inventors, who invent new technologies, new imaginations for problem-solving methods, -Visionaries with innovative technologies, -Pioneers who expand knowledge boundaries, -Entrepreneurs who discover business opportunities, as well as - Humanitarians that uses technology to improve human living environment. Assistant Professor Huanping Zhou was selected as an "inventor" category for her achievements in solar cell research.
Below is the introduction of Zhou’s story by MIT Technology Review.
Her innovations could make better, cheaper alternatives to silicon solar cells.
The solar energy industry has lacked a low-cost, high-performance alternative to silicon for a long time. In recent years, a family of hybrid materials called perovskites has gained attention because they can achieve high power output more cheaply than silicon. But making them work in practice has proved difficult. Early prototypes of perovskite-based solar cells weren’t as efficient as conventional silicon cells at converting the energy in sunlight into electricity.
Huanping Zhou developed a series of chemical processes that made perovskite-based solar cells more efficient and cheaper to produce. If they can be mass-produced, her innovation will make solar power much cheaper.
Growing up in the countryside of China, Zhou did not have electricity at home. She and her siblings did their homework by the light of a kerosene lamp. Her childhood experience motivated her to devote herself to solar technology.
The cell Zhou developed converts more than 20 percent of the energy in sunlight, about the same rate as existing silicon panels. Although some other perovskite cells are more efficient, Zhou’s invention is important because it makes the manufacturing process easier and cheaper. The cells can be produced at temperatures below 302 °F (150 °C) by spraying or printing a perovskite-based liquid solution onto a substrate such as glass. The process for some other types of perovskite cells requires temperatures around 932 °F.
Perovskite-based solar cells tend to degrade faster than silicon cells, so Zhou is also working on improving their durability.