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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering Pulse: News and Views

Eric Jankowski: National Science Foundation CAREER Award

MSMSE Undergrad Materials Lab, Eric Jankowski's Lab

Can you imagine printing a sheet of plastic that covers its own cost by converting sunlight into electricity within a few days? It’s entirely possible if printing technologies can fabricate high-efficiency organic photovoltaics (OPVs). Dr. Jankowski, assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering leads the Computational Materials Engineering Laboratory (CMELab) at Boise State. The group researches new materials that create sustainable energy sources. Particularly, they research methods for arranging molecules to give carbon-based advanced materials desired properties. Dr. Jankowski received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant for his research into methods that create greener environments.

An NSF CAREER Grant Supports Green Research

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of faculty members who integrate effective research and teaching. Dr. Jankowski’s CAREER award is supporting his research on transforming methods by which organic photovoltaic solar cells are made. The building-block materials used to develop OPVs are abundant and could enhance production of inexpensive solar panels. OPVs can be applied to curved or flexible surfaces that are hard to accommodate with silicon-based solar technologies. This would enable easier solar panel integration into fabrics or even vehicles. Ultimately, OPVs could provide an economical electricity alternative at a lower cost than current solar technologies.

“I’m enormously grateful for NSF’s support through the CAREER award and humbled to be included among its recipients,” Dr. Jankowski said. “This award will provide sustained graduate student support so we can take our preliminary plastic solar material studies to the next level. I’m so excited for the science this is going to make possible.”

Discovering Pathways to Efficient Alternative Power Sources

Dr. Jankowski’s research will focus on improving the simulation techniques for predicting OPV nano-structures. Improving simulation techniques will allow researchers to uncover the nano-structures of ingredient mixtures needed to create OPVs. Dr. Jankowski and his team can then learn more about the fabrication process and discover pathways to increasingly efficient power sources. He and his students plan to collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to make and test the plastic solar cells predicted by their research. According to Jankowski,”No other single advance will as broadly improve the health, security, and opportunity for global citizens as these inexpensive, accessible power sources. These power sources will fuel alternative energy development while mitigating climate change.” Students involved in this project will use computational materials science to solve challenges related to low-cost energy alternatives, giving them a leading edge in obtaining high-tech jobs.

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