July Update-Lets shine some light on the situation

Research can occasionally be frustrating. Sometimes it seems like every time you take two steps forward, you take another one back. Or occasionally eight.
At the beginning of July, my plan was to go ahead and start the assembly of my full Solar Cell. To do that, I first had to characterize each of the layers I was depositing. This should have been easy. But alas, nothing ever is. I spent about two weeks trying to deposit a homogeneous first layer, to no avail. There is something wrong with our precursor, and no matter what I try (and trust me, I have tried a lot) I couldn’t get this layer to spin smoothly. So that left me with two options: try a different precursor, or try to assemble a cell without that first layer to see what happened. I decided to proceed with assembling a cell with no first layer. I spent another two weeks developing a reliable method to measure the other layers (I finally figured out how to break, and mount a corner of the slide in the PHENOM on a nearly vertical mount–it was a glorious moment). Then I finally assembled a full cell.
It didn’t work.
But beyond that, I realized my solar simulator was completely unreliable. So there are a series of questions I am now facing: Is the problem with the cell or the simulator? Can I re-calibrate and build a better simulator with the tools available to me in the lab before summer ends to re-test my cells? Should I try and build another cell without that first layer and just tweak the ratio of materials in the active layer to see if I can get it to work? Or should I try maybe assembling one with an unreliable first layer just to see what happens? Or should we go ahead and just buy a new precursor? So many things to try; so little time.

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