Nanostructured Porous Materials for Low Carbon Energy Conversion

Jessika Trancik, Santa Fe Institute and Earth Institute, Columbia University

Friday, February 20, 2009, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

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This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

In order to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that is expected to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change, our global energy infrastructure will need to approach zero carbon dioxide emissions in the second half of this century. I will present a recent study of mine showing why this engineering challenge is likely to require major advances in our understanding of fundamental materials properties required for energy conversion, and our ability to inexpensively control these properties. I will then present my recent results on controlling materials at the nanoscale in order to optimize properties needed in solar cells, fuel cells and batteries. In discussing one project, I will show how we can dramatically increase the catalytic strength of carbon nanotube films by increasing the defect density, while retaining high conductivity and transparency. In discussing a second project, I will present a way to carefully tailor the structure of nanoscale pores to control the surface area, porosity and tortuosity of semiconductor thin films. I will use these specific examples to demonstrate the great promise of controlling porous materials at the nanoscale in order to achieve inexpensive and scalable low carbon energy conversion devices.

About the Speaker

Jessika Trancik is a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute and an adjunct associate research scholar at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. She studies technical barriers to developing ultra-low carbon and low-cost energy technologies, and explores solutions based on nanoscience and nanoengineering. Jessika received her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. She has also worked for the United Nations, and as an advisor to the private sector on investment in low-carbon energy technologies.