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Renewable energy resources have vast benefits for the world, but despite this knowledge, barriers like cost, land use area, and reliance on fossil fuels, prevent people from using them. Xian Tang, a high school senior at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, wanted to increase the availability of these renewable sources of energy. His project was most focused on energy efficiency of electrical appliances, like microwaves or toaster ovens, which people use most frequently.
“This can lead to increased use of renewable energy and decreased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Xian designed an energy recycling system that makes efficient use of energy, which would otherwise be wasted. The system uses environmentally-friendly ultraviolet (UV) wavelength corresponding dots of a substance called cadmium selenide to collect solar energy. In other words, it a transparent piece of plastic or glass that has luminescent dyes or quantum dots embedded or painted on it. The dye absorbs light and then fluoresces, which creates a glow, and the light is absorbed by a narrow solar cell. The quantum dots are embedded in an acrylic glass sheet with UV solar cells placed around its edges.
He used a spectrophotometer, which measures the intensity of light, to test the system’s ability to capture and transform UV radiation into usable electricity. Xian’s energy recycling system transformed temperature differences across both sides of its semiconductors into electricity.
He even tested the technology on a cellphone, an everyday electronic appliance, and found that the system caused a significant increase on the cellphone’s runtime compared to controls without the system. Xian plans to find the most energy-efficient product and create devices that can harvest renewable energy in efficient ways. “I have always wanted to apply my innovations to the world and make our planet a more energy efficient and sustainable place to live,” Xian said. “I want to solve the world’s energy problem.”
His project was selected by his local science fair for recognition as a Society for Science & the Public Community Innovation Award winner. This award honors students participating in science fairs around the world who are making a difference in their communities. In 2018, the Society rewarded 24 young scientists with $500 prizes — and Xian was one of them.
“This is not a regular recognition, but a showcase for my efforts to have a positive influence on my community and on the world,” Xian said. “This award inspires me to work even harder.”
Hamsa Padmanabhan's (Intel ISEF 2006) work takes her all over the world.