Skip to content Skip to navigation

Stanford Engineer Named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Stanford Engineer Named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Xiaolin Zheng’s work developing peel-and-stick solar panels earns her a spot in 2014 class of young innovators.
May 16, 2014

Xiaolin Zheng


Xiaolin Zheng, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been named to the 2014 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers for her work developing “solar stickers,” flexible, decal-like solar panels that can be peeled off like Band-Aids and stuck to virtually any surface. She is one of 14 people being honored and recognized by National Geographic for being visionary young trailblazers whose ideas are making a difference in the world.

Zheng leads a research team that created a groundbreaking invention that unlocks the practical potential of solar power. The team created solar cells in the form of flexible stickers one-tenth the thickness of plastic wrap. The solar cells produce the same amount of electricity as rigid ones, are easier and less expensive to install, and can be attached to any surface.

Zheng predicts that peel-and-stick solar cells could one day cover the sides of buildings, cover sidewalks to light walkways, energize home security systems and help power solar cars or planes.

The Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers, scientists and innovators who are at the forefront of discovery, adventure and global problem solving while still early in their careers.

Each Emerging Explorer receives a $10,000 award to aid further research and exploration. The new Emerging Explorers are introduced in the June 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, and more information on them can be found at