IREU | Summer Projects in the UK

U.S. undergraduate students may select from amongst the following projects offered at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland, UK) for the 2015 summer ACS IREU:

Project Code Project Title Project Mentor
STR.1 Development of new materials for organic solar cells Prof. Peter Skabara
STR.2 Hollow Gold Nanoshells as Energetic Nanomaterials Prof. Duncan Graham

(STR.1) Development of new materials for organic solar cells

Prof. Peter Skabara

The development of renewable energy sources is an urgent problem and so large that many technologies will need to contribute. Solar photovoltaics can be expected to play a major role because of the abundance of solar energy, and the convenience of electricity as an energy source. However, at present they contribute only a tiny fraction of the world’s energy supply (e.g. ~0.02% in the US). The major reason for the limited uptake is that current solar cells are much more expensive than generating power from fossil fuels. Organic semiconductors have the potential to solve this problem by providing a route to much lower cost solar cells. Organic semiconductors are -conjugated molecules and polymers that can be processed from solution via low cost/high volume deposition techniques such as spin-coating, roll-to-roll processing and ink-jet and screen printing. Conjugated polymers are an important class of organic semiconductor that can be used to make flexible thin film devices that are lightweight, highly portable, extremely fashionable and exceptionally marketable. The student’s project will involve the synthesis of novel conjugated polymers or oligomers as potential components in organic solar cells and/or the fabrication and testing of organic solar cells from materials already developed in the group. Prior to device fabrication, the materials will be assessed by absorption and emission spectroscopy, cyclic voltammetry and thermal behavior. The self-assembly of these materials at the nanoscale level will also be studied.

(STR.2) Hollow Gold Nanoshells as Energetic Nanomaterials

Prof. Duncan Graham

Recent interest in the optical properties of nanoparticles has predominantly focused on their ability to scatter or absorb light. Materials such as gold and silver spherical nanoparticles, rods, stars, cubes, prisms etc. have been synthesized and their extinction (combination of scattering and absorbance) assessed. We have recently been involved in the synthesis of a new class of nanoparticles known as hollow gold nanoshells (HGNs). These nanoparticles consist of a thin gold shell of between 5-10 nm and diameters ranging from 30-60 nm, and we have shown them to be tunable in terms of their optical properties (600-1500 nm). Of interest is their potential for solar energy harvesting. In this project, the student will tune the absorbance of the HGNs to be broad and cover much of the solar region and then assess how efficient the conversion of sunlight into heating of water is. We have preliminary data to show we can illuminate a cuvette of water with nanomolar levels of these HGNs and record bulk temperature increases of over 50 degrees in 10 minutes. There are many parameters than will be optimized in this project including shell thickness, HGN diameter, and surface coating among others.