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UW-Madison’s Trisha Andrew honored for energy research

December 19, 2012

Trisha Andrew, an assistant professor of chemistry at UW–Madison, has been named to Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Energy. The list recognizes talented young innovators whose work holds potential for the energy landscape of the future.

Andrew, who joined the faculty at the start of the semester, was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her energy research, which started at MIT but is continuing at UW–Madison, focuses on using unique nanoscale materials to develop new types of solar cells. These solar cells, which can be as small as one-hundredth the width of a single hair strand, convert solar energy into electrical energy.

Although research on these types of nanomaterials has been going on for decades, the key at this point, says Andrew, is getting these materials out into the world by making them lightweight, cheap and widespread.

Andrew is now focusing on the types of energy issues relevant to household settings rather than industrial settings. She sees value in working on energy problems that hold the potential for universal application, such as powering household electronics using solar energy captured as sunlight travels through specially selected colored molecules in a windowpane.

“What we’re trying to answer is the smaller question of how we can impact our population with technologies that aren’t going to last for 15 years, but will last for a year or two, which is the life of a mid-range cell phone,” Andrew says. “Part of what inspires me every day is that we need these devices right now. I honestly feel like we’re going to solve this energy crisis in some way. It may take a while, but we will do it.”

– By Libby Dowdall