Prof. Rui Wang Selected in the 2022 Global 35 ‘Innovators Under 35’ List

03, 2022

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On June 28, the 2022 Global 35 Innovators Under 35 selection results were announced. Prof. Rui Wang, a 29-year-old doctoral supervisor from the School of Engineering of Westlake University, was selected.

The MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 - 35 Technological Innovators Under 35, is one of the world's most authoritative lists of young tech innovators. Every year since 1999, they have searched the world for the most talented and innovative young technologists, innovators or entrepreneurs with the greatest potential to change the world.

The list is divided into five fields: AI and robots, Biotech, Materials science, Computing and Climate change. Wang, who is dedicated to research into a new generation of solar cells, was selected as one of the 35 in the field of climate change.

Prof. Jianjun Cheng, Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Dean of the School of Engineering of Westlake University, said, "Professor Rui Wang is an outstanding young material scientist in the field of organic photovoltaics and perovskite cells, and he and his collaborators have created a world of photovoltaic cell efficiency many times. His work is of great significance for the development of a new generation of photovoltaic cells with high efficiency and stability."

Wang, assistant professor and principal investigator of the School of Engineering of Westlake University, studied under the tutelage of Professor Yang Yang, an expert in the field of solar cells, and received a Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He then continued his postdoctoral research work at UCLA. In April 2021, he joined Westlake University full-time.

Wang has been engaged in the research of third-generation solar cells for a long time. He has published 22 papers in flagship journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Photonics, Advanced Materials, JACS, Matter, Nano Letters as the first author or correspondent author.

His research group mainly develops strategies to effectively improve the stability of solar cells through in-depth research on the degradation mechanism of perovskite, and develops a new generation of perovskite-based tandem solar cells in combination with traditional solar cells.

On September 22, 2020, at the 75th United Nations General Assembly, China proposed to strive to achieve carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. A key step in achieving this goal is to make full use of renewable energy sources, and Wang's research is closely related to this.

Perovskite solar cells have high conversion rates in the laboratory, low production costs, and can also be made into flexible materials to fit irregular surfaces. The reason why this new material has not been fully commercialized is because the impurity of the perovskite material leads to poor stability. For example, it is very sensitive to air and moisture, and even light can cause its structure to collapse.

How to improve the stability of perovskite batteries is the focus of research by scientists from all over the world, and it is also the main direction of Wang.

As early as during his Ph.D. at UCLA, Wang added caffeine to perovskite solar cells on a whim because of a cup of coffee, and found that the output power of the cells was greatly improved.

Subsequently, his research team designed a series of alkaloid materials for perovskite solar cells: theophylline, caffeine and theobromine to repair surface defects by systematically studying the defect states on the perovskite surface. Experiments have shown that theophylline is more effective, and the battery has created a new record of 500 hours of continuous operation.

Afterwards, Wang and his colleagues discovered the contribution of A-site cations to the perovskite energy band, which improved the stability of perovskite solar cells again through effective adjustment of surface optoelectronic properties.

Both results were published in the journal Science.

In March 2022, Wang and his team designed a new surface treatment strategy based on previous work achieving a perovskite battery which could work stably for more than 2000 hours, the longest working time reported to date. The results of the work were published in the journal Nature.

"There is light in your heart, and you will move forward!" This is Wang’s message on his personal page of the official website of Westlake University. The "small goal" he set for himself is to create a "light-chasing" record belonging to China at Westlake University, so that perovskite solar cells can go out of the laboratory and fully realize commercial applications.

As stated on the official website of MIT Technology Review, the selection of these 35 rising young innovators is not only about the achievements of a group of talented people, but also about the future direction of these technologies. Their hard work and exploration will eventually illuminate our lives one day in the future.