Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2017
Photophysics of Hybrid Hierarchical Structures with Emphasis on Directional Energy Transfer
To rapidly improve the existing energy and material landscape and meet the growing demand for sustainable energy, we need more fundamental knowledge about how various molecules are likely to behave in many different combinations.
Natalia B. Shustova from the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of South Carolina, has received a Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement to establish fundamental principles of directional energy transfer in well-defined hierarchical hybrid materials. Basically these are crystalline molecular structures that, depending on what atoms are added to them, might be perfect for use in solar panels, computer chips or as light-activated catalysts to improve industrial chemical reactions.
On the atomic or molecular level, a crystalline structure is essentially a highly uniform lattice in three dimensions, which can be efficient for moving stray electrons about. By adding additional atoms or molecules, a process called “doping,” and which creates a hybrid structure, many useful effects can be achieved when it comes to creating electricity directly from light, or performing computing functions.
Specifically, Shustova and her colleagues will focus on the preparation of two conceptually different crystalline metal-organic scaffolds with light-sensitive organic (carbon-based) molecules in hopes of creating versatile platforms to study and achieve efficient energy transfer. In doing so they also hope to be able to control the scaffolds’ light-absorption properties. They will also focus on creating chromophores containing fragments of proteins, which are sensitive to various wavelengths of visible light, and classify their efficiencies in transferring energy within the crystalline scaffolds.
There is also an education component to the Cottrell Scholar Award. Shustova will use some of the funding to establish the Women-in-Science Educational Program at South Carolina. Among other things, the program will include a summer educational program for African-American women from historically black universities and colleges, and it will provide an introductory course that explains the relationship between advanced technologies and fundamental chemistry concepts.