(4er) Modeling Adaptive Materials and Nanoengineered Surfaces for Energy Applications

Yong, X., University of Pittsburgh

The incentives for conducting energy-centric research stem from the pressing need to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to define renewable energy sources. Nanoengineeringed adaptive materials, such as core/shell nanoparticles, polymer gel nanocomposites, and nanoporous scaffolds, are attractive materials for energy applications because of their unique properties, which arise from interface dominated behavior, size dependent effects and an ability to respond to multiple stimuli. The goal of my proposed research is to design adaptive stimuli-responsive soft materials and nanoengineered functional surfaces that will be used in various energy applications. The proposed projects are highly interdisciplinary in nature, and spans fluid dynamics, polymer science, and material science and engineering.

Specifically, I aim to use coarse-grained simulations to design liquid-infused nanostructured or nanoporous surfaces in order to enhance electroosmosis flow over these surfaces. Increasing the throughput of electroosmosis pump could dramatically drop the parasitic load of water management in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. I also propose to model membrane-mediated self-assembly of nanoparticles through controlled vesicle fusion. Guiding these nanoscale building blocks to self organize into regular and precise patterns could turn the self-assembly into a cost-effective alternative pathway of nanolithography for manufacturing organic photovoltaics, energy-saving transistors and LEDs. My third project is focused on designing photoresponsive polymer-coated nanoparticles, which could have potential in increasing the long-term stability of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). In carrying out the above studies, I will be able to make significant contributions in the fields of active materials, electrokinetics and renewable energy, which are of particular interest to the chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering communities.