National Science Foundation - EArly Grant for Exploratory Research

Award Date: July 2013


REBECCA CORTEZ, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and MICHAEL HAGERMAN, professor and chair of chemistry, have been awarded a $99,962 EArly-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) from the National Science Foundation for a feasibility study titled "EAGER: Photoconductivity Characterization of Polymeric Nanocomposites" (NSF Award ID CMMI-1342577). 


This EArly Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) award provides funding to explore the feasibility of using nanostructured particles and thin films as key components in a polymeric nanocomposite suitable for solar applications. The synthesis of the nanocomposite polymers will focus on key constituents in the polymer/nanoparticle matrix that have the potential to aid in the strategic placement of the functional molecules, i.e. chromophores, in a solar cell. This feasibility study will evaluate the photo conversion behavior of the nanocomposite, focusing on photoconductive atomic force microscopy and electrical characterization of bulk solar cell devices as well as examination of the topography and interfacial zones of the nanocomposite.

If successful, the data from this study will provide guidance for the feasibility of water-based manufacturability of nanoparticle/conductive polymer thin film flexible solar materials, and will guide future research into fundamental studies of photovoltaic nanocomposite materials. The effort will contribute to the development of a new strategy for solar heterojunction materials that is based on the dispersion of customized nanoparticles within conductive polymer arrays using facile self-assembly within aqueous phases. An additional advantage is that the material system would be amenable to inkjet printing and roll-to-roll processing for flexible solar materials manufacturing.