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U of U researchers use old microwave in breakthrough technology

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Posted at 10:11 PM, May 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-20 00:11:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of researchers at the University of Utah have come up with a way to make solar cell materials using a microwave.

After four years and many failed attempts the group saw success, which may mean more access to materials Americans use on a daily basis.

Mike Free, U of U professor of metallurgical engineering, said even though you may not have heard of solar cells, they are used every day.

"Some of these quantum dots are in use in LED monitors, screens,” he said. “These photoable tape materials are designed to be used in solar cells, and people can generate power from the sun, so there's some very practical applications for these materials.”

Free said experimentation led to a breakthrough.

"Trying new things no one else has tried, so we've come up with, he's really come up with a way to make these nanoparticles of these solar cell materials using a microwave,” he said. “It's fascinating in simplicity, and also it helps to speed up the process.”

Research associate Prashant Sarswat said he and his team conducted more than 100 experiments before achieving success.

Sarswat and his research team discovered after years of work they could literally cook these solar cells in a microwave, which paves the way for easier and more practical ways to produce the useful materials.

"It is just beginning,” Sarswat said. “We got devices working, but we need to improve them. So this is kind of beginning where we have to proceed further.”

Click here for more information about the project