Direct assembly of nanomaterials for highly efficient energy conversion will be the goal of a five-year, $750,000 project led by Cornell researcher David Erickson.
Erickson, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has received a Department of Energy Early Career Research Program grant for a project to use high-intensity optical forces on the nanoscale to directly assemble new types of hybrid nanomaterials with useful energetic properties.
Erickson explained that often when new nanomaterials are made, such conditions as the concentration or temperature of chemicals can be modified, but in the end, chemical reactions occur that can't be stopped.
"With this technique we hope to be able to get around that and directly take a series of basic elements like carbon nanotubes and gold nanoparticles, and assemble them into any arbitrary material structure we like," Erickson said.
He hopes their first application of such new materials will lead to better ways to convert energy.
"Ultimately we envision that the basic research conducted in this program could lead to the development of a sort of light-based nano-assembly line for creating new materials," Erickson said.
Erickson said the grant will support a graduate student or postdoctoral associate for five years, as well as provide a partial summer salary.
The DOE funded about $85 million worth of early career research projects with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. To date, Cornell has received 135 ARRA awards, totaling more than $105 million.