“I am using nanomaterials to develop more efficient organic solar cells, while keeping their cost low enough that they can be used by everyone.”
Chemical Engineering PhD candidate Ehsan Keyvani dreams of a future where affordable, efficient solar energy is widely available to people all over the world. He envisions energy being harvested by our buildings, our cars, our roads and even our clothes – a vision he has pursued with his research into organic solar cells at Northeastern.
A native of Iran, Keyvani received his undergraduate degree in Polymer Engineering from the University of Tehran, where he first became intrigued by the potential of chemical and material engineering using synthetic polymers. “You can build anything with polymers; they can be conductors, insulators, anything you want, and that fascinated me.”
After completing his undergraduate studies, Keyvani moved to the US to enroll at Northeastern, where he was accepted into the Chemical Engineering department as a research assistant to Dr. Hicham Fenniri, the principal investigator of Northeastern’s Supramolecular Nanomaterials Lab. There, Keyvani has devoted his time to using the lab’s resources to research, design and prototype organic solar cells.
“Conventional silicon-based solar panel technology is still prohibitively expensive, which is why you don’t see them everywhere, why governments have to subsidize their installation,” says Keyvani, “Whereas organic solar cells are dirt cheap by comparison – the problem with them is that they lack efficiency, and their lifetime is short. So our main goal for this project is to develop techniques to make more efficient, longer-lived organic solar cells while keeping their price low.”
When not focused on his own research Keyvani has also greatly enjoyed instructing and mentoring undergraduate students, for which he has been recognized multiple times. In 2018 he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award by the College of Engineering, and most recently was awarded Northeastern’s 2019 Outstanding Graduate Student Awards for Teaching.
This is likely a part of why Keyvani is so optimistic for the future of organic solar technology – he knows that the next generation of researchers at Northeastern will take up the mantle. Starting in the fall, Keyvani will begin a position as a Visiting Teaching Professor at UMass Lowell in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
“We made great progress, but the next PhD students will hopefully be able to use the techniques we developed, and improve efficiency even more.”