You may have seen a story about 12 year old William Yuan’s 3D solar cell design that won him a $25,000 scholarship and a fellowship from the Davidson Institute. When the story originally broke, it sounded like William Yuan had come up with a world changing invention all on his own – “12 year old May Hold Key to Solar Energy” said PC Magazine, and Wired entitled their story “12 year old Revolutionizes the Solar Cell”.
But to researchers at Georgia Tech, the new design sounded very similar to the 3D solar cells that they had been working on. Georgia Tech tried to find out, but were not able to get any specific information – when they heard that Yuan said (in an interview with KATU, Yuan’s local TV station), that he had researched the work that Georgia Tech had done and then improved the design, they started questioning whether Yuan had copied their research. KATU started talking with Georgia Tech’s Director of Communications Kirk Englehardt in an attempt to get to the bottom of this.
“The only thing we’ve ever asked for is a little bit of information so we can determine that his research is truly different than the work that we’ve done here – and we’re hopeful that it is,” said Kirk Englehardt with Georgia Tech.
Now it appears that the two sides are talking. Englehardt released the following statement last Saturday (Sept 27th), “We are glad to report that the Georgia Tech Research Institute has been contacted by the head of the Davidson Institute. We are now having a dialogue with the Institute and are hopeful that we are on our way to a positive outcome for everyone involved. Thank you to all in the media and the blogosphere who have taken an interest in this story. Your comments have been appreciated. Georgia Tech officials say that they have no doubt that William Yuan is very bright, and that if all this is resolved, they would certainly welcome him as a student someday.