Research at the nano-scale nets university over half-million dollars in funding
Two new grants from the National Science Foundation will allow University of Maryland engineers to develop new uses for graphene to improve batteries, solar cells and even computer displays. Liangbing Hu, of the Clark School’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, and the Maryland NanoCenter, will lead the research.
Hu will study the fundamental properties of a material called "holey reduced graphene oxide", a very thin and porous sheet of carbon. Learning all about this nano-material would help Hu and his team incorporate it into a rechargeable battery, as a highly ordered structure to hold sodium. Researchers are trying to replace lithium, the material found in commercially available rechargeable batteries, with sodium because sodium can be much cheaper than lithium. Co-PI Prof. Veronica Barone of Central Michigan University will focus on the computational work of sodium ion transport through graphene nanostructures. (SusChEM: Collaborative Research: Holey Reduced-Graphene-Oxide Film for Na-Ion Battery Anode )
Hu's second project, conducted with Prof. Gary Rubloff, also of the University of Maryland’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the Institute for Systems Research, and director of the Maryland Nanocenter, could demonstrate a new manufacturing technique for the electronics in displays and in solar cells. Engineers would like to find a way to print long sheets of electronic circuits using ink made from flakes of graphene material, but can't yet because the flakes of graphene need to be electrically connected to each other. Hu and Rubloff plan to "nano-glue" the flakes together after they are laid down using a technique called atomic layer deposition in which molecules sift out of a gas to form an atoms-thick coating. Their technique would also correct any defects in the material -- a major problem for nano manufacturing because defects are much too tiny to spot. Hu will focus on roll-to-roll printing and film characterizations, while Rubloff will focus on selective ALD and defect characterizations. (Stitching and Healing Graphene Flakes by Atomic-Layer-Deposition for Roll-to-Roll Printing of Transparent Conducting Electrodes)
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