03 Chemical Engineering Research

Solar (Photo) Cell:
Chemistry, Operation Principles, Construction, Demonstration

Event limited to the first 15 entries 


Implementation and use of Solar Energy is growing in the United States and in developed countries. Solar Arrays are used for power in roadway emergency call stations, on homes and industries are using them on commercial buildings. Utilities are planning for larger scale use, research scale units are under development for supply to entire communities.

  • The objective is for the research team to acquire information on construction of a research scale - lab Solar Cell, Students select a design, then construct and demonstrate its operation.
  • You also need to evaluate your cell’s performance using your or a NJIT provided light source.
  • The research project will also be evaluated on basis of economics.
  • Consider how a solar cell system can be implemented into a conventional home. 


  • Search for background information on photocells, specifically the construction and operation of an experimental - Lab Scale Solar (Photo) Cell.
  • The equipment -  research –construct a  lab Photo Cell (must fit in 6" diameter circle)
  • Record your data and perform needed calculations.
  • Write a paper that demonstrates your understanding of the chemical principles involved in the chemistry, operation and construction of the photocell.
  • Present a drawing of your equipment and schematic of circuit.
  • Event Day - teams are expected to bring a physical working model and have it tested from an NJIT supplied light source                (Review specific requirements below)

Device Construction and Operation

  • The photocell must fit in a  6 inch diameter circle.  It will be tested using a standard light source  (See demonstration picture linked below photocell_test.jpg)
  • Total cost of final product shall not exceed $120.

Student Research

  • Students research and written paper should describe the chemistry /  chemical reactions / and principles chemical specie that absorb the light and the steps that convert the energy into electrical energy.   Unique aspects of the Teams photocell can be highlighted.
  • Paper should include the following:
    1. The different steps used in the photocells conversion of uv – visible light (radiation) into electrical energy.  
    2. Steps in the construction of the photocell. Experimental data should be collected and illustrated. This can demonstrate voltages and possibly current and can be in terms of its’ surface area.
    3. A materials list with a verifiable cost value in terms of supplies used to construct the working photocell.
    4. A schematic diagram describing the circuit, and voltmeter, ammeter, load utilized, etc.  
    5. A labeled picture of the photocell illustrating parts and materials.
  • Research paper and Power Point must follow guidelines posted below.
  • Student research and paper should explore the chemical reactions and principles that allows the photocell to generate electricity.  Unique aspects of the photocell should be highlighted.
  • Paper should include the following:
    1. Explanation of how photocells convert radiation into electrical energy.  
    2. Experimental approach and factors used to design a photocell.  Experimental data can be collected / reported that demonstrate operation of the photocell in terms of surface area.
    3. Provide a materials list with a verifiable cost value in terms of supplies used to construct the working photocell.
    4. A schematic diagram including circuit, voltmeter, ammeter and load.
    5. A labeled picture or set of pictures of the photocell should be available  identifying parts and materials.
  • Research paper and Power Point must follow guidelines posted below.

   Event Day

  • Teams should be prepared to demonstrate the photocell using and calculate power generated and the efficiency of solar cell.
  • Circuit components and meters must be set up by team in front of  judges to show basic competency in electrical systems.
  • Demonstration of equipment using your and an NJIT Chem Olympics supplied light source.  


Paper & Poster Guidelines

  • Sources of information must be identified clearly (written sources as well as a list of people who provided assistance)
  • Research papers should be based on information acquired from a minimum of 3 PRIMARY SOURCES.  Internet sources may be utilized in addition to the primary sources. Judges will be looking at how students select and use information gathered from primary sources.
  • Examples of primary sources include articles found in peer-reviewed professional journals such as Nature, Science and Journal of Chemical Education, Journal of Chemical Engineering Education. Peer-reviewed professional journals are available at post-secondary academic libraries.  Peer-reviewed journals that are accessed online are acceptable.  Magazines such as Discover, Science News, Popular Science and Scientific American, although informatory are not peer-reviewed professional journals. You are required to submit photocopies of the first three pages of each primary source used in your paper.
  • Conclusions you form should be based upon your; experimental data, experiments you conduct at your school facility. 
  • Your written report should not exceed five pages - 12 pt., double spaced plus a 2-Part Appendix (see below) 
  • Include a cover page containing:  Title of the Paper, Authors, School ID, Team (A or B if applicable)
  • The Appendix should include: 
    • Part 1: diagrams, charts, etc. (max 10 pages) 
    • A Materials list with a cost value for parts and supplies used to construct the working photocell.
    • A schematic diagram including circuit, voltmeter, ammeter and load.  
    • A labeled picture of the photocell should be available clearly identifying parts and materials.
    • Collected and analyzed test data (demonstrates operation and testing)
    • A list of references used in your research (written sources as well as a list of people who provided assistance).

Part 2 (minimum 2 pages)

  • Scans/images of the first page of the primary source articles used in your research -- excluding the Abstract.
  • Abstract in lieu of article is not acceptable.
  • Prepare either a Power Point presentation that summarizes your research.  Presentations must reflect the information and data presented in the written report.  Schools must supply their own computers, LCD projectors and/or overhead projectors.  A screen will be made available.
  • The written paper and poster/Power Point must adhere to the ACS Style Guide.
  • Be prepared to make a 3-5-minute oral presentation, one-on-one with the judges.
  • Electronic copies of all reports must be received by the NJCO Co-directors by the deadline indicated in the Competition Guidelines. The reports must be clearly labeled with the school name.  If applicable, also indicate, team A or B.
  • All submissions must be in the form of a single file in MS-Word format.
  • It is recommended to bring a paper copy of your report the day of the event.
  • A team may be disqualified, if they are not ready to start at the scheduled time of their presentation.


  • Written report with Description  20%
  • Poster/Power point – 15%
  • Oral Presentation / Explanation of Principles of Operation – 25%
  • Construction and Economics) - 20%
  • Measure / Demonstrate Efficiency – 20%

Team Identification

It is important to identify all submissions with the information below, to prevent mix-up.  Schools with multiple teams – Please clearly differentiate between team A and B

Each submission (research reports, CDs, DVD, reports, etc) must include the following 4 items:

  1. Name of school
  2. Team A or B designation, if applicable
  3. Names of students (clearly printed legibly)
  4. Name of coach