Sara Majetich has received a seed grant from CMU's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation to explore ways to make small powerful permanent magnets without the use of rare earth or noble metals. This could be a breakthrough development because the rare earth elements used in the strongest of today's permanent magnets are becoming increasingly scarce and costly. The institute, made possible by a lead gift from CMU alumni Sherman Scott (E'66), president and founder of Delmar systems, and his wife, university trustee Joyce Bowie Scott (A'65), is focused on improving energy efficiency and developing new, clean, affordable and sustainable energy sources. A key mission of the Scott Institute, established in September 2012, is to stimulate new research initiatives and connections across the campus.
PQI faculty Paul W. Leu and Kevin P. Chen were awarded a $107,498 Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER grant) to develop a new process for the scalable laser manufacturing of more efficient solar cells.
"We're exploring new structures, called photonic crystals, that are at the wavelength scale or smaller to better trap light within the absorbing region of the solar cell," Dr. Leu explains.
NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity fired its first laser beam in August, blasting a space rock at more than one million watts per shot to determine whether the red planet could be habitable. The method, called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), is used to detect not only the composition of space-related soils but also an array of foreign materials. Now, with the help of a $1.12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, PQI faculty Kevin Chen will build upon the LIBS technique and related instruments to dramatically improve the detection sensitivity of the technology for substances of interest to Homeland Security.
Jung-Kun Lee has received a National Science Foundation grant for his research into solar cell energy conversion. The grant, Solid State Dye Sensitized Solar Cells Using Tunable Surface Plasmons of Core-Shell Particles, is $290,724 over three years.
The objectives of this research are to develop a fundamental understanding the physical interactions among surface plasmons, solar light modulation, and carrier/exciton generation, and to design the novel plasmonic particles (i.e. metal nanoshell) that enhance light absorption capacity of solid dye sensitized solar cells.
A research team at PQI is developing quantum-computing algorithms to better model turbulent combustion in aerospace applications. A five-year U.S. Air Force grant was awarded this month to principal investigator and PQI faculty Peyman Givi, Andrew Daley, and Jeremy Levy.
"If some of the things we are thinking do work and eventually we do achieve this, a process that could take weeks or months will transpire in minutes," said Givi. "It really is a quantum leap."