EFRC:CST develops new public website on green energy research challenges

March 26th, 2014

homeWhy do we need Green Energy? is EFRC:CST’s newly developed public website designed to generate a better understanding of and interest in basic energy research. Visitors will learn about the need to shift US energy usage to alternative, renewable energy sources and the consequent importance of both solar energy production and energy storage devices. Current activities on the website include step-by-step animations that illustrate key parts of batteries and solar cell devices and show how they work. The “Plastic Solar Cell Challenge” allows users to explore how thin, flexible cells are built from the macro to molecular scale by guiding an exciton from its creation with light to its conversion into electricity.

This website is being developed in conjunction with Suzi Tucker of Suzi Tucker Design, a uniquely capable website exhibit developer and former theoretical chemistry professor from UC Davis with over a decade of design experience. We are continuing to develop this site to add more activities to show how CST research is helping to improve the advancement of important green technologies.

CST investigator Dr. Guangbin Dong named a 2014 Sloan Research Fellow

February 24th, 2014

Dong, Guangbin 2011

CST co-PI Dr. Guangbin Dong is among 126 early-career scientists to receive a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The fellowships are designed to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. These two-year fellowships are awarded to 126 researchers in recognition of their unique potential to make “substantial contributions” in their field.

“For more than half a century, the Sloan Foundation has been proud to honor the best young scientific minds and support them during a crucial phase of their careers when early funding and recognition can really make a difference,” said Dr. Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “These researchers are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge in unprecedented ways.”

Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 39 Nobel prizes, 16 Fields Medals (mathematics), and 13 John Bates Clark Medals (economics). Fellows receive $50,000 to further their research.

For a complete list of winners, visit: http://www.sloan.org/sloan-research-fellowships/2014-sloan-research-fellows/

EFRC Investigator John B. Goodenough Wins Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering

January 14th, 2014

Dr.-John-Goodenough-300x196The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) will bestow John B. Goodenough of The University of Texas at Austin with the highest honor in the engineering profession for the groundbreaking creation of the lithium-ion battery.

Goodenough holds the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. He is one of four recipients of this year’s Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering in recognition of their significant roles in developing the lithium-ion battery, which is used by millions of people around the world in devices such as cellphones, laptops, tablets, hearing aids, cameras, power tools and many other mobile electronics.

Goodenough, Yoshio Nishi, Rachid Yazami and Akira Yoshino will receive the Draper Prize “for engineering the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that enables compact, lightweight mobile devices.” They will share the $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society.

The prize will be presented at a gala event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Draper Prize. Past winners can be found online. In addition to the Draper Prize, NAE will also award the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education at the gala.

“The NAE’s major prizes for 2014 highlight the dramatic impacts of engineering innovations on people and society, and they inspire new ideas about educating the next generation of great innovators,” said C.D. Mote Jr., president of the National Academy of Engineering, a 50-year-old group that has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign associates. “I congratulate the prize winners on their achievements, and thank them on behalf of all beneficiaries of their creativity.”

In 1979, Goodenough showed that by using lithium cobalt oxide as the cathode of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, it would be possible to achieve a high density of stored energy with an anode other than metallic lithium. This discovery led to the development of carbon-rich materials that allow for the use of stable and manageable negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries.

Goodenough began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in 1952 where he laid the groundwork for the first random-access memory (RAM) of the digital computer. After leaving MIT, he became professor and head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Oxford. During this time, Goodenough made the lithium-ion discovery.

In 1986, he took the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering at UT Austin. He holds faculty positions in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

In 2013, Goodenough was awarded the National Medal of Science for his lasting contributions to materials science and technology. He also holds the Japan Prize, which he received in 2000.

For more information on the 2014 Draper Prize and Gordon Prize winners, visit the NAE website.

For more information, contact: Adrienne Lee, Cockrell School of Engineering College of Engineering, 512 471 7541.

This article was originally published on The University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering website.

Congratulations to EFRC Recent Graduates and Alumni!

December 6th, 2013

Congratulations to our recent CST graduates and postdoctoral fellow alumni who have moved on to permanent positions!

willardDr. Adam Willard, a former CST postdoctoral fellow from Prof. Peter Rossky’s group, is now an Assistant Professor in the chemistry department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is using theory and simulation to explore the role of molecular fluctuation in a variety of chemical phenomena. For more information on Dr. Willard’s research group, please visit his MIT Research Page.

sankaran2Dr. Sankaran Murugesan, a former CST postdoctoral fellow from Prof. Keith J Stevenson’s group, has taken a Research Scientist position at Baker Hughes Incorporation, Houston, TX. In the new position, Sankaran is implementing nanotechnology to increase the efficiency and performance for oil and gas applications through the synthesis of nanomaterials and development of in-situ analytical tools.

ono2Former CST graduate student Robert Ono from Prof. Christopher Bielawski’s research group successfully defended his dissertation in August 2013, and moved on to a postdoctoral position at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA shortly thereafter. At IBM, Robert is conducting research in the area of nanomedicine, and is directing his efforts toward the synthesis and development of biodegradable and biocompatible polymers for drug delivery and antimicrobial applications.

2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Recognizes Foundational Work Implemented in EFRC:CST Studies

November 1st, 2013
An image from a simulation of the full dynamics of an electronic excitation created on a section of the polymer polythiophene. The purple spheres represent the location of the excitation, with radius scaling with the distribution of that excitation over the molecular rings.

An image from a simulation of the full dynamics of an electronic excitation created on a section of the polymer polythiophene. The purple spheres represent the location of the excitation, with radius scaling with the distribution of that excitation over the molecular rings.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognized computational modeling as a game-changer in molecular research.

Awarded to three American-based scientists, the prize acknowledged the impact multi-scale models, which couple quantum mechanics and classical physics into a single computational model, have had in enabling the simulation of the chemical activity in large complex molecules.

ICES’ Peter Rossky earned his Ph.D in chemical physics under Martin Karplus, one of this year’s Nobel laureates. Now, as director of the ICES Center for Computational Molecular Sciences, Rossky is advancing such multi-scale models toward understanding the behavior of molecular materials in a variety of ways, with his most recent research focused on developing plastic-based solar cells.

Applying coupled quantum-classical modeling toward solar cells is a relatively new venture for Rossky, who has spent a large portion of his career investigating how water influences the chemistry of molecules in a solution. This research began in Karplus’ lab, where the coupled model had been created just a few years earlier to examine proteins. Under Karplus, Rossky created the first computer simulation of a water-solvated protein, modeling the protein in an environment akin to what is experienced in living biological systems.

“Water is the medium in which biology occurs, so if you don’t know what the water is doing, you may not understand why [a protein] is functioning the way it does,” said Rossky.

Rossky did not use the combined model while in the Karplus lab, but it became a critical tool for his later research. He first applied it in the 1980s when studying hydrated electrons, a major player in radiation sickness because of their high reactivity. While his advisor focused on modeling biological molecules, Rossky is currently interested in the synthetic; the combined models are a key part in evaluating the molecular behavior of candidate photovoltaic materials for solar cells.

“The 1972 paper by Warshal and Karplus is the primary reference for the basic formulation,” said Rossky, referring to the publication that first described the coupled quantum-classical model.

Peter Rossky holds the Marvin K. Collie-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and is professor of chemical engineering. He also serves as the director of the ICES Center for Computational Molecular Sciences, and is a member of the ICES Multiscale Modeling Group.

Peter Rossky holds the Marvin K. Collie-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and is professor of chemical engineering. He also serves as the director of the ICES Center for Computational Molecular Sciences, and is a member of the ICES Multiscale Modeling Group.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) for Charge Separation and Transfer, which Rossky directs, sponsors solar cell and battery research, with a focus on understanding how energy capture and storage could be improved starting at the molecular level. ICES researchers Graeme Henkelman, Greg Rodin, and Venkat Ganesan are also involved in the EFRC’s efforts.

“Our EFRC is focused entirely on understanding the fundamentals by using systems that are well controlled. We know what molecules are there, but the goal is to characterize how they’re arranged and how they change with light absorption, so that we can learn what the fundamental roadblocks are and develop the principles that can be used as a basis for designing molecular components”, said Rossky.

The ultimate goal is to find a solar cell material that could be produced at low cost in lightweight, plastic, flexible sheets with high energy producing efficiency. While there are current plastic solar cell materials, they are still considerably less efficient and less durable compared to conventional silicon panels. (See a simulation of electron excitation in polythiophene, one candidate material)

Like the models created by the three Nobel laureates, Rossky’s molecular models are multi-scale, with active portions being modeled with quantum mechanics, and surrounding structure in classical, mechanical terms. Working with ICES’ Director Tinsley Oden, Rossky is taking these models to yet another level: the mesoscopic realm, the scale that describes the complex arrangement of large collections of molecules.

The efforts of contemporary research in computational molecular science are following the foundations recognized by the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry while continuing to expand the scope of the vision accessible via simulation.

“What you see now is a very natural evolution of what’s been going on since the 1960s. There are continually improvements in both the quality of the description at any given scale and also the ability to reach over larger scales of time and larger scales of space,” said Rossky.

This article was originally published on The University of Texas Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) website.

EFRC:CST Graduate Student Serves on Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter Editorial Board

October 3rd, 2013

EFRC-CST_Schroder_Headshot2EFRC:CST Graduate Student Kjell Schroder is currently serving on the Editorial Board for the DOE Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter. His article, highlighting research from CALCD on dynamics in catalyst structure has been published in the September 2013 Issue of the newsletter. Kjell’s article, entitled “Understanding Surface Chemistry in Catalysts Atom-by-Atom,” can be found online at: http://www.energyfrontier.us/newsletter/201309/understanding-surface-chemistry-catalysts-atom-atom/.

Frontiers in Energy Research is a quarterly publication featuring exciting new research from different Centers, including how they are meeting the grand challenges put forth by the DOE Office of Basic Energy Science.

EFRC Research Highlighted in Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter

March 4th, 2013

A collaborative EES research project by EFRC:CST faculty members Graeme Henkelman and Arumugam Manthiram is highlighted in the current issue of the DOE Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter. The article features results published in J. Phys. Chem. C that conclusively show, using both experimental and theoretical methods, that transition metal in Li-rich layered oxides can be used to tune the reversible capacity of the cathode.

The article, entitled “Recharging the World, Recharging Lithium-Ion Batteries”, can be found online at http://www.energyfrontier.us/newsletter/201301/recharging-world-recharging-lithium-ion-batteries.

Frontiers in Energy Research is a quarterly publication featuring exciting new research from different Centers, including how they are meeting the grand challenges put forth by the DOE Office of Basic Energy Science.

EFRC:CST Member Dr. John Goodenough awarded National Medal of Science

January 3rd, 2013

Goodenough_John_smallEFRC:CST faculty member Prof. John Goodenough is one of twelve recipients of the 2012 National Medal of Science. This medal is awarded annually by the White House and recognizes outstanding contributions to science and engineering. In announcing the 2012 recipients, President Obama stated, “I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators.  They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this Nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”

Prof. Goodenough is widely credited for the scientific discovery and development of the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and currently works on understanding interfacial charge transfer on surface-modified electrodes within the EFRC:CST. Among his many accomplishments, Prof. Goodenough currently holds the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering at UT-Austin, is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the Presidential Enrico Fermi Award in 2009. The National Medal of Science will be awarded at a White House ceremony in early 2013.

The official White House press release and complete list of recipients can be found here.

Congratulations to EFRC Recent Graduates and Alumni!

December 13th, 2012

Three EFRC:CST members have recently graduated or moved on to permanent positions this fall.

lombardoDr. Christopher Lombardo, a former CST postdoctoral fellow from Prof. Ananth Dodabalapur’s group, has taken a position at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) where he is the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and a Lecturer in Electrical Engineering. In this role, Dr. Lombardo works to coordinate placements for research opportunities within SEAS or other Harvard research laboratories.  Additionally, he works with faculty members to identify best pedagogical practices and to develop courses, assess existing courses, advise teaching staff on pedagogy, and is the faculty advisor for the Harvard College chapter of Engineering Without Borders.

adachi_takujiTakuji Adachi, a former CST graduate student working under Prof. Vanden Bout successfully defended his dissertation in August 2012 and moved on to a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in the physics department at The University of Regensburg in Germany. In this position he is working with Prof. John Lupton on time-resolved single molecule spectroscopy to study the fundamental photophysics of pi-conjugates systems on model macrocycle molecules. Additionally, Dr. Adachi has recently been awarded a fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), which will enable him to move on to another postdoctoral position at New York University in early 2014, where he will be working with Prof. Michael Ward.

IMG_micahglazCurrent CST graduate student, Micah Glaz, also from Prof. Vanden Bout’s research group, successfully defended his dissertation in November 2012, and will be moving on to a postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. David Ginger at the University of Washington in early 2013. In his new position, Micah will be working on the spectroscopy and electrical characterization of polymer blends using scanning probe microscopy techniques such as electrostatic force AFM to study nanostructured solar cells.

Congratulations Chris, Taki, and Micah on your achievements!

CST Graduate Student Wins Best Poster Award at Two International Conferences

July 16th, 2012


Glaz received the Best Poster Award at the International Conference of Young Researchers on Advanced Materials held in Singapore in July 2012. He also received the Journal of Materials Chemistry Poster Prize at the International Conference on Science and Technology of Synthetic Metals in Atlanta in July 2012.

Glaz’s poster, “Probing Organic Electronic Properties by Confocal Microscopy,” describes his collaborative work with his advisor, Prof. David Vanden Bout (UT-Austin), along with Prof. Ananth Dodabalapur (UT-Austin) and Dr. Christopher Lombardo, a CST postdoctoral fellow.

Glaz uses spatially resolved photocurrent microscopy to characterize photocurrent collection profiles in organic photovoltaic devices fabricated by the Dodabalapur group. The devices feature a unique lateral geometry to facilitate study of charge transport and recombination and consist of a blend of PSBTBT (provided by Konarka Technologies, Inc.) and PCBM. Glaz’s measurements have revealed that increasing the voltage bias in the lateral OPV devices increases the size of the space charge region. Future planned studies include the investigation of Langevin and non-Langevin recombination in lateral OPVs composed of varying donor/acceptor materials.