World-Renowned UTEP Researcher Earns NSF Support for Solar Cell Research

 Posted: 7/28/11

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant to The University of Texas at El Paso for the creation of innovative chemical compounds that eventually could be used in pioneering organic solar cell research.

Luis Echegoyen, Ph.D., the Robert A. Welch Chair in chemistry, said that he and his team of student researchers will use grant funds to prepare structurally new chemical compounds that never have been produced before now.

“We are at a very early intellectual stage and (these compounds) are difficult to prepare,” he said. “Whatever amounts we prepare will be the only available on the planet.”

Eventually, Echegoyen’s research team will learn how to control the number and placement of specific chemical groups on the surface of soccer ball-shaped carbon cages called fullerenes that have unique electronic properties. The goal is to control the electron accepting abilities of the fullerenes, which are named after R. Buckminster Fuller, a renaissance man who designed the geodesic dome in 1947.

This grant, which was awarded July 1, will help Echegoyen continue his cutting-edge research into fullerene chemistry that began about 20 years ago. These fullerene molecules, embedded in thin, flexible plastic cells, could someday lead to sustainable energy production from the sun’s rays by generating electricity.

The professor’s research is highly significant with respect to discoveries and innovative applications in multiple areas including renewable energy applications, said Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., UTEP’s vice president for research.

“Dr. Echegoyen is world renowned in this field, bringing recognition to UTEP, assisting with the recruitment of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and contributing to UTEP’s aspirations to be a national research university,” he said.

The work done by Echegoyen, who came to the University in 2010 from the NSF and Clemson University, helps UTEP in its quest to become the first national research (Tier One) institution with a 21st century student demographic. 

Info: Veronique Masterson, Public Information Officer, The University of Texas at El Paso, 915-747-7503.

 

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