November’s installment of Adler After Dark, a nighttime event hosted monthly at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, featured a showcase of alternative energy technologies from the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center, a portfolio center of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN). Throughout the sold-out event, attendees engaged in hands-on scientific experiments related to the night’s theme, “Weird Science.”
On invitation, Dr. Sameer Patwardhan and Dr. Marek Majewski, along with a team of graduate students and researchers from Northwestern gave the attending public a thorough demonstration of emerging alternative energy technologies while discussing the missions of both ANSER and ISEN.
Throughout the evening, Dr. Sameer Patwardhan, Dr. Craig Chapman, and Dr. Dmitry Zhdanov engaged the audience with demonstrations of piezoelectric, fuel cell, wind, thermoelectric, and solar power generation. Although once thought of as rare, these clean energy technologies are quickly becoming mainstream. And scientists at ISEN and ANSER are working to improve their efficiencies and make them even more widely applicable.
One of the most popular demonstrations of the evening involved the fabrication of photovoltaic cells from household ingredients such as a blackberries and iodine tincture. Members of the ANSER team showed participants how to design and prepare these solar cells and even allowed them to construct cells of their own that could be used to power a small model car.
During the demonstrations, Dr. Marek Majewski and graduate student researchers Joe Christensen and Aaron Peters held information sessions explaining the particulars of ANSER’s research to members of the audience—including its work in solar fuels and solar electricity. The event, which ANSER team members widely regarded as a success, gave visitors a glimpse into the future of renewable energy.