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Two members of the University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Chemistry have been granted membership in the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Drs. Scott Darveau and Chris Exstrom were given membership based on their research using nanotechnology that may improve the efficiency of solar cells.
They are the first UNK faculty to be members of the center. Membership allows them to use NCMN’s facilities, collaborate on research and funding opportunities, and host seminars and speakers in this area of science.
“I believe membership will enhance the credibility of our undergraduate research program in the NU system and in the eyes of granting agencies,” Dr. Exstrom said.
Nanotechnology refers to applied science and technology in the control of matter on the molecular level in scales smaller than one micrometer, normally 1 to 100 nanometers, and the fabrication of devices within that size range.
In efforts to fabricate copper-indium-boron-diselenide solar cell materials that better convert sunlight into electricity, the UNK faculty members recently began experimenting with the creation of nanocrystals as a way to more effectively combine the necessary elements.
Their initial thin-film approach deposited the elements on the solar cells under high temperature and vacuum conditions. In the nanocrystal approach, a mixture of the elements is heated in a solvent, and the solar cell material is isolated as a fine-powered solid. Ultimately, spray deposition technology – like that used in inkjet printers – can be used to deposit the nanocrystals onto a solar cell.
Drs. Exstrom and Darveau have been working since 1997 with colleagues at UNL, electrical engineers Rod Soukup and Natale Ianno, on novel approaches to make solar energy more market viable.
The overall goal of the trans-Nebraska team is to boost the electrical output of solar cells so that they could convert about 15 percent of radiant energy received to electrical energy at an installed cost of $1.50 to $2 per watt.
NCMN is a multidisciplinary organization with about 70 faculty members from colleges of arts and sciences, engineering and technology. They are concerned with developing materials and devices of the ultra-small. Areas of study include atomic manipulation, self-assembly of nano-sized machines, nanoelectronics, quantum computing, nanomechanics, nanooptics and life sciences.