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Christopher Bardeen

Professor of Chemistry
Christopher Bardeen
Improving Solar Cell Efficiency
When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent of the total cost. Solar energy could be made cheaper if less land had to be purchased to accommodate solar panels, best achieved if each solar cell could be coaxed to generate more power.

By combining inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals with organic molecules, UCR chemist Christopher Bardeen has succeeded in “upconverting” photons in the visible and near-infrared regions of the solar spectrum. This upconverted photon is readily absorbed by photovoltaic cells, generating electricity from light that normally would be wasted, boosting solar efficiencies by 30 percent or more.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Solar Energy
College: Department: Affiliations:
  • Chair, Chemistry GAANN Committee
  • Member, American Chemical Society
  • Member, American Physical Society
  • Member, Optical Society of America
  • Member, Biophysical Society
  • 2015-17 NSF Grant Recipient, "Preparation and characterization of microscopic photomechanical molecular crystals"
  • 2012-15 NSF Grant Recipient, "Singlet fission and exciton diffusion in organic molecular crystal materials"
  • 2009-15 DOE Grant Recipient, "Design and characterization of novel photocatalysts with core-shell nanostructures"
Press Release/Article: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • UCR Regents Faculty Fellowship
  • Sloan Research Fellowship
  • 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award
  • School of Chemical Sciences Teaching Award
  • NSF CAREER Award
  • Research Corporation Research Innovation Award
  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award
  • Abramson Graduate Fellowship
  • Department of Education Graduate Fellowship
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Latest Research

Q&A

Q: What is the goal of your research?
My research studies solar energy and what happens when light hits a material. Using a controlled source of light (lasers), we study the materials that can take one photon and split it into two energy packets. Those two energy packets can generate two electrons so we get double the energy. Our goal is to improve the efficiency of solar technology by 20-30% and get more bang for our solar buck!

Q: Even though other schools doing the same research why UCR?
UCR is a unique place to do this research because it has a new school of engineering (Bourns College of Engineering) that is very open to chemistry and molecular concepts so we can do a lot of collaborative research together. The collaborations, the facilities and the people at UCR make this a great place to do innovative research where you are looking to expand the concepts of solar energy. My hope is that I can give back and contribute to society. I am grateful to UC Riverside, for giving me these opportunities to do something good for the environment.

Q: How does your research impact the world?
The research we do here has two impacts. The most immediate impact is obtaining new knowledge – understanding nature and phenomena in nature that is interesting and novel. The second impact is when that new knowledge has implications for society. In our research with solar energy conversion we develop new technology and new materials that make living easier, more efficient, or lead to a cleaner environment.

Q: How is technology involved with your research?
We use state of the art technology in my lab including, lasers, photo detectors and computers in order to understand the processes that we study. Technology powers my research and then also my research has implications for solar energy and other types of technology.  

Q: What are some of the challenges that face solar today?
Right now solar technology faces the obstacle of cost. If we can increase efficiency we can lowers the cost. Making a higher efficiency solar cell, less solar cells would need to be installed and less land would need to be used. Another challenge for this technology is to find efficient ways store the energy in batteries or other technologies.

Q: How is your research funded?
Most of my research is funded by the National Research Foundation. Some of it is funded by the Department of Energy because they are interested in alternative energy or new approaches to solar energy. This funding supports mainly students to work on this research and eventually move into their PhD’s. This helps create a pipeline of future scientists that will graduate and later work in solar technology or similar fields. Federal funding is vital to continuing research and making any advances at all.  

Q: What does Living the Promise mean to you?
Living the Promise, to me, means combining the technological advancements produced in a university with direct applications in California. Here you can see many environmental problems and how the university and research can be a solution to those problems. The promise of UCR is the promise that new knowledge can solve problems that seem insurmountable.

Christopher Bardeen "Our job is to look at a longer range perspective or scientific frontier, and generate new knowledge that will not necessarily be in a solar cell now but could be in a solar cell ten to fifteen years down the road."

—Christopher Bardeen
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