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The Chemistry of Color

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers working at the intersection of basic and applied science focus on key factors like cost, environmental impacts … and color. Take, for example, Chemistry Assistant Professor Trisha Andrew: researchers in Andrew's lab are developing next-generation solar cells using chromophores, or in lay terms, dyes.

"It turns out that the same fundamental properties that give dye molecules their color also allow them to conduct electricity and generate power," says Andrew, whose research earned her a spot on the 2012 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy list. "I want to take car paints and make them into solar cells."

Professor Trisha Andrew holds a solar cell her group printed on paper
Professor Trisha Andrew holds a solar cell her group printed on paper


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"If you have blue anything — blue plastic, a blue car, blue clothes — it comes from copper phthalocyanine," says Andrew.

 谷物 reports that one of the simpler systems would cost over $9,000.

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"I believe these are contenders for next-generation solar cells because we can make them lightweight and ultra portable, and since the starting materials are so cheap, they're essentially disposable," says Andrew.

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Andrew says that opportunities for collaboration at UW-Madison provide unique benefits for her research. She is currently working with Materials 研究 Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) researchers and UW Energy Experts 

“In my lab, we’re collecting solar energy and trying to transform it into energy we can use,” she says.

“I work on the harvesting energy part, and there's a plethora of researchers here who can tell me how to store it once I collect it.”

Story by Celia Luterbach, Wisconsin Energy Institute

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Energy Institute