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Advancing Energy Research

Chemist in Northwestern-Argonne partnership receives early career investigator award

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September 1, 2011 | by Amy Weiss
Emily Weiss

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Emily A. Weiss, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, has been awarded the Northwestern-Argonne Early Career Investigator Award for Energy Research.

Funded by Northwestern's Initiative for Sustainability and Energy (ISEN) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the $100,000 award honors a scientist working collaboratively between the two institutions on research relating to energy production or use.

Weiss was selected for her proposal "Exciton Dissociation in Single Quantum Dot-Molecule Complexes." Over the next three years, Weiss and her collaborator at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, physicist Matthew Pelton, will focus on single crystals of semiconductor material called quantum dots.

Neal Blair, professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair of the selection committee, said that Weiss and Pelton were chosen because of their strong research records, and because their research “constitutes a new direction in the Northwestern-Argonne research partnership.”   

“Quantum dots have many properties that larger ‘chunks’ of the same material don't have,” Weiss explained, “and these properties make them appealing as solar energy conversion materials.”

The goals of the research, Weiss explained, are to design materials that will exchange electrons, determine the rate and yield of the electron exchanges and apply their findings to optimize electron exchange. 

“Electron exchange across interfaces between inorganic nanostructures and organic material is one of the processes that must be studied and optimized in order to exploit special properties of nanostructures for solar energy conversion to electricity and fuels,” Weiss said. “Our project provides a unique way to quantitatively measure the effectiveness of this process for a given nanostructure-organic composite material.”

The Initiative for Sustainability and Energy was established in 2008 by then-President Henry S. Bienen with the goal of catalyzing the development of transformational science, technology, education and policy for sustainability and energy.  ISEN meets this challenge through interdisciplinary training, research, and local and global outreach.  ISEN supports student and faculty research and outreach through a number of award and funding mechanisms, summaries of which are available on its website.

Argonne National Laboratory, the nation's first national laboratory, seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. Argonne conducts cutting-edge basic and applied scientific research in every scientific discipline. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.