Wayne State receives NSF grant to explore new ways to harvest solar energy

Stephanie Brock holding a chemical sculptureA Wayne State University researcher has received a $310,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate a new approach to converting plentiful solar energy into electricity or fuel.

Scientists around the world are interested in ways to take wasted, unused energy and convert it into useful energy supplies. Stephanie Brock, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in Wayne State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is investigating how to "harvest" light and turn it into electrons that can power a circuit or convert a molecule into a chemical fuel a problem that has been particularly challenging to researchers.

In her research project, "Establishing a Chemical Toolbox for Programmed Assembly of Metal Chalcogenide Nanoparticles into 'Wired' Architectures," Brock and her research team are developing techniques that enable submicroscopic light-harvesting particles or "quantum dots" to be assembled into macroscopic films and 3-D porous structures with millimeter to centimeter dimensions.

"We are developing methods that enable quantum dots with different chemical potentials to bond to each other, thereby creating a voltage that can drive a current within the structure," said Brock. "We are also working hard to understand how the chemical nature of the inter-particle bonding affects the ability to rapidly move the charges, and how these charges can sometimes get 'stuck' and resist extraction."

The fundamental knowledge developed from this research will help in the design of efficient solar cells and photochemical water-splitting (hydrogen fuel generation) systems. Brock engages graduate and undergraduate students in her interdisciplinary collaborative research, training them in modern synthesis and characterization techniques. Through the Wayne State University GO-GIRL program, Brock introduces Detroit-area adolescent girls many of whom are minorities to materials chemistry.

The award number for this National Science Foundation grant is CHE-1709776.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.

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