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Program Highlights

Self-assembling polymer/clay nanocomposites applied to fruit for shelf life extension

June 5, 2018

In previous work Texas State University team members  discovered a self-assembling nanocomposite formed between polyvinylpyrrolidone and montmorillonite clay that exhibits high gas barrier properties. This self assembling phenomena has been extended to other polymers including polyvinyl alcohol, polyethylene oxide, and gum Arabic. It has additionally been demonstrated that coating fruits and vegetables with this self-assembling system extends the shelf life three fold ( figure 1). It appears that the shelf life extension is due to two factors. First the coating slows the egress of water and secondly the ingress of oxygen is drastically reduced. A patent has been applied for on this technology.

 

Using Iron with Oxide Nanosheets to Enhance Electrochemical Lithium-Ion Charge Storage

June 5, 2018

Research at Texas State University (MSI) and MSREC partner NC State demonstrated that iron oxide (g-Fe2O3) could be synthesized as a nanosheet architecture which resulted in significantly higher Li-ion capacities than nanoparticles; this work can provide enhanced cathodes for lower cost Li-ion batteries.

  • Iron oxide (i.e. rust) is very low cost but typically has a low capacity for storing Li-ionsIron oxide can be synthesized as nanosheets
  • The iron oxide nanosheets are stabilized from transformation to nanoparticles by structural H2O and ethylene glycol
  • Iron oxide nanosheets have significantly higher capacities than nanoparticles
  • Nanosheet form allows surface-based charge storage
  • Furthers our ability to design low-cost cathodes for Li-ion batteries

3D Printing of Multifunctional Composites

May 31, 2018

Piezoelectric materials have long been investigated due to their unique characteristic of converting mechanical stress into electrical charges or vice versa.  However they are fragile, difficult to fabricate, and requires post processing. One way to alleviate the drawback is to use 3D printing with in-situ poling to fabricate piezoelectric materials in large scale and low cost fashion.

New Electron Extraction materials for Inverted Perovskite Solar Cells

May 31, 2018

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs), have shown a remarkable increase in photoconversion efficiency (PCE), from 3.8%  in 2009, to 22.1% in 2016. The good electron transporting and solution processable properties of fullerene derivatives make them the most popular electron transporting materials (ETMs) in PSCs. The influence of different adducts on the PCEs of fullerene-based PSCs has not been fully explored to date.

Outcome: We reported new functionalized carbon nanomaterials, and PCEs up to 18.6% were obtained when they were used as the ETMs in PSCs. 

How Methylammonium Cations and Chlorine Dopants Heal Defects in Lead Iodide Perovskites

May 29, 2018

Despite rapid progress in the efficiency of organohalide perovskite based solar cells, physical mechanisms underlying their efficient charge separation and slow charge recombination still elude us.

One Step Synthesis of Fluorescent Graphene Quantum Dots Through Pyrolysis of Amino Acids

February 14, 2018

Outcome: We have developed a novel method for the synthesis of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) by using two amino acids, which are non-toxic natural materials containing nitrogen groups for easy surface modification. The synthesis process was easy, efficient and no toxic chemicals were involved. The obtained GQDs had a size of 3.26± 1.30 nm and lattice spacing of 0.286 nm.

PREM 2017 Intellectual Merit Highlights

February 14, 2018

T1: Magnetic and Electric Properties with Applications

Designing methods and devices for efficient mutual control of electricity and magnetism
Developing low-power consumption
We designed and fabricated Graphite-fiber reinforced copper composite wires to meet the requirements of wire strength of about 400% of pure copper’s strength while retaining at least 80% of electrical conductivity of a copper wire.

T2: Photochemistry with Novel Materials and Applications

UTRGV-UMN Partnership for Fostering Innovation by Bridging Excellence in Research and Student Success

February 14, 2018

[A] Developed a scalable method to produce graphene-fiber hybrid structures with seamless connections between graphene and fibers. These are produced in situ from aqueous polymer solutions. The surface area and pore diameter of the hybrid structures were measured to be 520 m2g–1 and 10 nm, respectively. The resulting structure shows high electrical conductivity, 550 S/m, and promising shielding of electromagnetic interference, making it an attractive system for a broad range of electronic applications.

Polymer/Carbon Spheres Composites for Device Applications

February 13, 2018

Intellectual Merit: Carbon-based materials have attracted scientific interest due to their promise to revolutionize the electronics industry. Carbon Spheres (CS) were produced via hydrothermal carbonization of sucrose. A Schottky diode was fabricated using a composite of the highly conductive CS and the polymer PEO (polyethylene oxide). The diode was tested as a half wave rectifier. The simple design and fabrication, and complete exposure of the carbon material to the ambient make these diodes excellent candidates for use in active electronic components including gas/light sensors.

PREM Collaborators: Students: Cesar Nieves, Luis Martínez, José L. Pérez-Gordillo. Faculty: Idalia Ramos, Nicholas Pinto, Natalya Zimbovskaya, Margarita Ortiz (UPRH) and Jorge Santiago (PENN).

Charge Stripe Formation in Molecular Ferroelectric Organohalide Perovskites for Efficient Charge Separation

February 13, 2018

Despite rapid progress in the efficiency of organohalide perovskite based solar cells, physical mechanisms underlying their efficient charge separation and slow charge recombination still elude us. In this work, we provide first direct evidence of spontaneous charge separation via first-principles simulations.

A Pressure-Induced Emergence of a Weyl Semimetal Phase in Pb1-xSnxTe

February 13, 2018

Outcome: In collaboration with experimental studies at Princeton University we have carried out ab initio calculations to examine the effect of pressure on the topological phase diagram of Pb1-xSnxTe. The calculations reveal that the ferroelectric polarization, which breaks crystal inversion symmetry, induces a Weyl semimetallic state separating the normal insulator and topological crystalline insulator phases. The metallic phase features pairs of Weyl nodes of opposite chiralities which persist over a finite pressure range. Hence the metallic phase is protected since the Weyl nodes cannot be removed except by mutual annihilation which occurs at higher pressure.

Functionalized Fullerenes for Selective Electron Extraction in Inverted Perovskite Solar Cells

February 13, 2018

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs), have shown a remarkable increase in photoconversion efficiency (PCE), from 3.8%  in 2009, to 22.1% in 2016. The good electron transporting and solution processable properties of fullerene derivatives make them the most popular electron transporting materials (ETMs) in PSCs. The influence of different adducts on the PCEs of fullerene-based PSCs has not been fully explored to date.

Outcome: We reported new functionalized fullerene derivatives, and PCEs up to 18.6% were obtained when they were used as the ETMs in PSCs.

1. Chengbo Tian, Edison Castro, Tan Wang, German Betancourt-Solis, Gloria Rodriguez, and Luis Echegoyen. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 8 (45), 31426-31432, 2016.

3D Nanoarchitecture for Bio-molecular Fingerprinting

February 13, 2018

We have developed three-dimensional (3D) nanoachitecture based surface enhnaced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) technology and demonstrated that it can be used for the diagnosis of bacteria, virus, Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, cancer, explosives and toxic chemicals.

Our 3D technology has the capability to identify bacteria/virus/cancer cells in less than 10 cells/mL level.

Reported data show that 3D SERS has the capability to take environmental and medical diagnose  technology  to the next level.

Published in Acc. Chem. Res., 2016, 49, 2725–2735

 

Outreach in Mississippi Children Museum on Visualizing the Wonder of Nanotechnology

One-Step Synthesis of Fluorescent Graphene Quantum Dots Through Pyrolysis of Amino Acids

August 21, 2017

Outcome: We have developed a novel method for the synthesis of graphene quantum dots (GQDs) by using two amino acids, which are non-toxic natural materials containing nitrogen groups for easy surface modification. The synthesis process was easy, efficient and no toxic chemicals were involved. The obtained GQDs had a size of 3.26± 1.30 nm and lattice spacing of 0.286 nm.

Impact: These GQDs emitted strong blue fluorescence, demonstrated high photostability and showed tunable emission wavelength by changing the excitation wavelength, which have great potentials in biomedical imaging, designs of biosensors, and etc. Moreover, they had good solubility not only in water, but also in many organic solvents, which may future broaden their applicability. Dissolved in different solvents did not affect their fluorescence emission ability.

A Pressure-Induced Emergence of a Weyl Semimetal Phase in Pb1-xSnxTe

August 21, 2017

Outcome: In collaboration with experimental studies at Princeton University we have carried out ab initio calculations to examine the effect of pressure on the topological phase diagram of Pb1-xSnxTe. The calculations reveal that the ferroelectric polarization, which breaks crystal inversion symmetry, induces a Weyl semimetallic state separating the normal insulator and topological crystalline insulator phases. The metallic phase features pairs of Weyl nodes of opposite chiralities which persist over a finite pressure range. Hence the metallic phase is protected since the Weyl nodes cannot be removed except by mutual annihilation which occurs at higher pressure.

Polymer/Carbon Spheres Composites for Device Applications

August 21, 2017

Intellectual Merit: Carbon-based materials have attracted scientific interest due to their promise to revolutionize the electronics industry. Carbon Spheres (CS) were produced via hydrothermal carbonization of sucrose. A Schottky diode was fabricated using a composite of the highly conductive CS and the polymer PEO (polyethylene oxide). The diode was tested as a half wave rectifier. The simple design and fabrication, and complete exposure of the carbon material to the ambient make these diodes excellent candidates for use in active electronic components including gas/light sensors.

PREM Collaborators: Students: Cesar Nieves, Luis Martínez, José L. Pérez-Gordillo. Faculty: Idalia Ramos, Nicholas Pinto, Natalya Zimbovskaya, Margarita Ortiz (UPRH) and Jorge Santiago (PENN). 

Broader Impacts: This is the first study demonstrating real applications using conducting carbon spheres fabricated via an easy, rapid, cheap, and green technique.

Integrated 3D printing with in-situ functionalization of piezoelectric nanocomposites

April 5, 2017

Our research supported by the NSF PREM project studied the synthesis, fabrication, and characterization of advanced materials for sensing, energy harvesting, and storage.

Our integrated 3D printing with in-situ functionalization of piezoelectric nanocomposite enabled us design nanocomposites with engineered properties towards different applications such as pressure sensing, self-cleaning, steam harvesting, vibration and thermal energy harvesting.  Our research results generated 5 journal (1 accepted, 4 under review) papers this reporting period, and 1 proposal funded by DOE. 

New Fullerene Derivatives for Electron Transporting Materials in Inverted Planar Perovskite Solar Cells

April 5, 2017

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs), have shown a remarkable increase in photoconversion efficiency (PCE), from 3.8%  in 2009, to 22.1% in 2016. The good electron transporting and solution processable properties of most fullerene derivatives make them the most popular electron transporting materials (ETMs) in PSCs. To the best of our knowledge, the influence of different adducts on the PCEs of fullerene-based PSCs has not been fully explored to date. Here, we report  new functionalized fullerene derivatives, and their performance as the ETMs in PSCs. 

What happens to photogenerated charges in semiconductor nanowires?

July 6, 2016

How? We use optical microscopy to determine the dynamics of photo-generated charges in individual semiconductor nanowire hetero-structures.

Development of chemical and biological sensors: Synthesis of Plasmonic Nanoparticles and Multispectral Imaging Nanostructures

July 6, 2016

How? Synthesizing and isolation of ultra-small gold nanoparticles with a specific shape or structure. We have developed a facile approach for shape-controlled synthesis of gold nanoparticles using KBr and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) as the reducing agent. 

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