Electrical and computer engineering undergraduate researcher Miranda Cardenas has received a $5,000 scholarship from Micron to support her research projects. Cardenas works in the NanoEngineering Lab under the direction of associate professor Heayoung Yoon. Her work focuses on the design and fabrication of 3D nanostructures for the microstructural characterization of solar cells.   

“As a first-generation college student, this award has not only relieved the stress of paying my tuition but will allow me to focus on my research,” said Cardenas. “It has given me the reassurance that the work I am doing is meaningful and has encouraged me to continue to pursue a career in renewable energy.”  

Photovoltaic cells, often referred to as solar cells, convert sunlight to electricity and are most commonly known for their use in rooftop solar panels. The majority of solar cells today are made from silicon which requires a thick material with expensive production processes. An up-and-coming alternative and the focus of Cardenas research is thin-film solar cells. Their ultra-thin, lightweight layers allow them to be flexible and cost-effective.   

Pictured right is a hole array designed by Cardenas with holes the width of 100 um,  a similar size to a single hair.

Cardenas spends most of her time in the NanoEngineering Lab and the Utah Nanofab, where she designs and fabricates small hole arrays using a nanoscribe, a 3D printer with microfabrication capabilities. Cardenas is currently working on a grid pattern with thousands of holes smaller than a strand of hair. Cardenas’ hole arrays are used for solar cell measurements to understand the crucial role of microstructures in the development of efficient, high-performing photovoltaic devices. Cardenas hopes that her work will serve as a model for other researchers and bring us one step closer to making solar power a widespread energy source.  

“We encourage our students to look into many exciting research projects in ECE, particularly in nanotechnology and energy harvesting devices. I am delighted to work with our undergrad researchers. They are team players and problem-solvers. I am proud of Miranda and her achievement,” said Yoon.   

Learn more about the NanoEngineering Lab and Cardenas work here and find out how you can get involved in undergraduate research early in your degree here