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Three students named co-winners of the 2009 GPEC Award

The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM) and the Princeton Environmental Institute are pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 Global Photonic Energy Corporation Edith and Martin B. Stein Solar Energy Innovation Awards which is given to recognize students who have demonstrated excellence in leadership and innovation in research that significantly advances the field of global renewable energy resources. There was one undergraduate award winner and two graduate co-winners this year.

The undergraduate award winner is Mark B. Smith, of the Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, co- advised by Prof. G. Charles Dismukes and Prof. Stephen Pacala. Smith’s senior thesis titled “New Approaches to Hydrogen and Methane Production from Aquatic Phototrophs” included two original experimental projects and an original theoretical analysis. All three projects aimed to develop alternate approaches to maximize the conversion of solar energy to fuels (hydrogen and methane) using photosynthetic microorganisms as source of biomass. His thesis illustrates how to exploit the capability of cyanobacteria to alter their biomass composition, using environmental and nutrient stresses, to increase the yield of fuel precursors. His co-advisor Prof. Dismukes said, “Mark is driven to work on energy problems that have a global reach.” He was awarded an NSF graduate fellowships for continuing studies at MIT and expects to continue research into microbial solutions to the energy problem.
 
The Graduate Award will be split between Emily Cole of the Department of Chemistry, advisor Prof. Andrew Bocarsly, and Richard Lunt III of the Department of Chemical Engineering, advisors Prof. Stephen Forrest and Prof. Jay Benziger.   
 
Cole is recognized for her work on developing a photoelectrochemical system that uses visible light to convert carbon dioxide and water to methanol using a semiconductor-electrolyte interface and a high efficiency molecular catalyst. This is the first time such a system has been demonstrated with only light as the input and has received a great deal of commercial interest. In addition to developing and demonstrating the system, Cole has carried out an exceptionally difficult kinetic and mechanistic analysis of the chemistry. Her work has been presented as invited papers to the American Chemical Society and the Electrochemical Society. Her advisor, Prof. Bocarsly describes her as an extremely hard working scientist with strong laboratory skills, an impressive work ethic, and creative problem solving abilities.  Her outstanding scientific results are anticipated to play an important role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas outputs.
 
Lunt’s work has focused on understanding and exploiting organic thin film materials for use in photovoltaics.  He has been a leader in understanding the dynamics and control of materials growth, developing new materials optimized for their application.  Lunt has developed a unique technique allowing for the first time elucidation of the layer-by-layer growth of crystalline interfaces and a deeper understanding of the underlying substrate on the evolution of the structure. These groundbreaking results have been described in two papers in Advanced Materials and Applied Physics Letters. More recently he has developed a quenching photoluminescence method which when applied at different wavelengths is able to determine the exciton diffusion length in these organic electronic materials. Prof. Forrest, his co-advisor, said that “Lunt has emerged as an important leader in the area of organic electronics and materials, with particular application to organic solar cells.”
 
 
For a complete list of Graduate GPEC Award Winners click here

For a complete list of Undergraduate GPEC Award Winners click here

Tag(s): GPEC Award