The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ChE Undergrad to Publish Cover Story in Materials Today

Senior chemical engineering student Niva Ran is the lead author of a cover story entitled “Organic single-crystal lawns” for an upcoming issue of Materials Today, the international review magazine for all researchers with an interest in materials science and technology. Her co-authors are postdoctoral scholar Qingshuo Wei and Assistant Professor Alejandro L. Briseño from the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering. “I should mention that she did an exceptional job in my group in just one year,” said Professor Briseño.“She published two papers and has one in preparation. We are all very proud of her."

He added that “I think she is a tremendous inspiration to other undergraduate students. Yesterday they were nearly all in disbelief when I mentioned her accomplishments to them. I just want to say ‘thank you’ for training her so well in your curriculum.”  

Ran’s cover story deals with nanoscopic crystallization of vertically grown diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) nanowires, which are grown on a silicon dioxide substrate so that, under a Scanning Electrom Microscope, the vertical crystals “have a stunning resemblance to grass,” as the Materials Today editors note. That’s why the nanowires are nicknamed “crystal lawns.”

As the editors observe, the research “also marks the first step towards the production of single-crystalline vertically-oriented nanowire solar cells.”

In devices such as solar cells, as Niva explains in the article, vertical crystallization is preferred since charges are collected at the top and bottom electrodes. But that kind of vertical architecture has been very difficult to achieve in the past. “Our research group is making significant progress towards fabricating this ‘ideal’ geometry,” remarked Professor Briseno.

Niva will be presenting her research at the 2011 Spring Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting in San Francisco, California. She will also begin her doctoral studies this coming fall in the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (April 2011)