Putting the SOLAR in CalSol, the Solar Vehicle Team

Greetings! My name is Min Ju, and I’m the lead for the newly-created Solar subteam. Here is a sneak peak of what the Solar subteam and I have been up to.

1. Encapsulation

Encapsulation has been one of the most overlooked aspect of solar despite its paramount importance and monstrous cost. Unlike solar panels that sit prettily on roofs to collect energy, our race car has to endure the rough terrain and unexpected weather condition 3,000 km across the continent of North America or Australia; ensuring proper physical and chemical protections of the solar cells that fuel our vehicle is crucial to maximizing our performance.

After a few optics and polymer chemistry lessons, consultations with professors in the Electrical Engineering Department and Dr. Google, and lots of phone calls to companies, we attempted our very first encapsulation on bare solar cells at the Richmond Field Station in January. It was highly entertaining, to say the least.

This is solar “encapsulation”….not.
More like a popcorned solar cell?

Anyway, two of the many lessons learned from the above-depicted incident were that Tedlar is extremely difficult to work with and that I need a solar laminator to properly encapsulate.

The solar team is currently working hard on researching and developing the best frontsheet and backsheet materials as well as antireflective coating for 22.5% efficient monocrystalline silicon solar cells. (By the way, it’s amazing how much smarter and more efficient multiple-brain-collaboration is, compared to my previous one-brain effort. This wonderful thing called teamwork–I highly recommend it.) 

2. Expanding our Network

Rami is spearheading the organization of an awesome event that involves professionals in the energy, chemical, and photovoltaic industries. It’s a secret for now; details will be released very soon, so stay tuned! Last semester, we had a blast talking to too-many-to-count professors, researchers, and industry leaders who graciously shared their expertise with us. I expect nothing less than extraordinary from this semester’s outreach as well, especially now that we have so many hardworking Berkeley students working together.

3. The Rest of Solar Shtuff

Solar array arrangement, wiring, mounting, and more…they’re in the works too! But for the time being, encapsulation will take precedence over other efforts because of the time-sensitive nature of this project.

It’s been a great honor and fun to work on the Solar aspect of our Solar Vehicle with the brightest minds and the world-class technology. As mentioned, there are many exciting updates to come from this baby Solar subteam. So stay tuned, Go CalSol, and Go Bears!

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