Solar's true costs

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Janice Boecker, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, is using nanotechnology to build better solar cells.

Boercker's work to improve solar cell technology is especially important right now because environmental concerns and our growing world population drive the need for clean yet cheap energy.

graph showing solar cell technology to cost several times the per energy unnit cost of traditional energy sources such as coal and oil
Data from the US Department of Energy

Boecker and Aydil

You get what you pay for

Solar cells seem like a good solution to our growing energy needs, right? And using current technology, we can make solar cells that are really good at turning the sun's rays into electricity--they're highly efficient. But look at the graph: they're also really expensive.

Janice Boercker and her advisor, Eray Aydil are working on a new way to make solar cells very cheaply using tiny nano wires. Their solar cells aren't yet as efficient as the current silicon solar cells, but they should improve as researchers begin to understand them more.