Developing Alternative Energy: Research Contributions by a Nazarbayev University Doctoral Student

Today our interview is with Bakhytzhan Baptayev, a graduate of the School of Engineering and Digital Sciences, who this year successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in the “Science, Engineering and Technology / Materials Science and Engineering” program.


What is the subject of your dissertation?

My PhD research focused on a type of 3rd generation solar cells.  In particular, I was interested in issues related to developing low-cost components and methods for dye-sensitized solar cells. Compared to 1st and 2nd generation technologies, 3rd generation solar cells have the potential to generate electricity at higher efficiency and lower cost. These cells can be used in solar panels to deliver electricity to cities and/or integrated into buildings as windows or roofs.  It is even possible to use them to power small devices, household items, smart clothes or e-textiles, and self-powered wearable gadgets. Thus, the use of 3rd generation solar cells will contribute to the development of alternative energy sources and the production of new materials for breakthrough technologies of the future.

The main advantage of  3rd generation solar cells is that they do not generate any pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, and this “clean energy” is fairly low-cost to generate.

Thinking about the overall costs of this technology, we have developed several components which are less expensive than traditional ones but demonstrate high efficiency.  We have already published several articles in international peer-reviewed journals about our research.  Following these successes in research and development, we applied for a commercialization project grant, as well as a Ministry of Education and Science grant.   This commercialization grant application – for production of counter electrode material for dye-sensitized solar cells – was submitted to NURIS, and we are waiting for the results of the competition.  The counter electrode is a component of a dye-sensitized solar cell. It transfers electrons to the cell and helps to regenerate electrolyte, another component of the solar cell. Traditional counter electrodes are made of platinum which is very expensive and scarce. We have developed platinum-free counter electrodes which are much cheaper and more efficient than traditional Pt-based counter electrodes. This will help to decrease the cost of production for dye-sensitized solar cells and make them more competitive on the market.

In your opinion, what is important when writing a dissertation?

When writing a dissertation (or article, proposal), the assistance of a highly experienced mentor is important. My supervisor, Dr. Mannix Balanay, Assistant Professor of SSH, helped me a lot.

You can also find help and support in your research team, and I am very thankful to be part of this community.   I am working in a group supervised by Dr Mannix Balanay. The group consists of several NU students, research assistants and researchers. In addition to my supervisors, I am also thankful for the work of Dias Mustazheb, a bachelor student who helps in doing experimental work and in publishing the results.

Even after completing my dissertation, I am still working on research related to the project.  We are continuing our research on solar cells and exploring new directions.

Your recommendations to future doctoral candidates?

For new PhD students, I would recommend first to find an experienced and hard-working supervisor.  This supervisor will set an example and have the expertise to help you to do your experiments and publish your results.  But you, yourself must have the drive to work hard and the persistence to do the research and publish it.