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October 3, 2012


Dr. Richard Robinson
Assistant Professor of Materials Science
Cornell University

“Chemical Transformations and Structural Engineering of Nanomaterials for Energy Devices”

Abstract:  Nanoparticles possess size- and shape-tunable properties, which can be greatly altered from their bulk values.  These new properties can be harnessed for energy applications.  To realize the goal of nanoparticle energy devices we are chemically transforming and structurally engineering colloidally synthesized nanoparticles.  Our aim is to develop novel nanomaterials for thermoelectric, battery, and catalytic applications. 

In this talk I will discuss our latest results toward realizing nanoparticle energy devices.  I will discuss our synthesis of hyperbranched cobalt phosphides where we have cracked the normally inert tri-n-octylphosphine oxide (TOPO) and use it as a phosphorous source.

I will also discuss our work on the chemical transformation of metals into metal phosphides.  Using EXAFS we’ve gained insight into these systems and determined new information on the nanoscale Kirkendall effect and inherent phosphorous doping in Ni.

I’ll also discuss our latest work on additive-free nanoparticle battery electrodes – cobalt oxide battery anodes made without binders or carbon black.  We have found that electrophoretic deposition (EPD) of nanoparticles can create a strong enough electrical and mechanical bond for the nanoparticle batteries to perform at maximum capacity.  By developing a method for additive-free electrodes that maintain high conductivity we seek to open new possibilities for reducing the weight and volume of batteries, and create a template system for studying the physics of nanoparticle electrodes.  Our cobalt oxide nanoparticle films formed without any binders and carbon black show excellent cyclability.

Biography:  Richard Robinson is an assistant professor in the Materials Science Department of Cornell University. His research is centered on understanding the fundamental physics of nanomaterials, such as their thermal properties, and applying novel nanosynthetic design concepts to tailor the properties of nanomaterials by controlling their size, shape, composition, and surfaces. His group is targeting new materials for lithium storage, thermoelectrics, and electrocatalysis. His group is also pioneering a new method to probe phonon transport in nanostructures.

Richard received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University, experimentally and numerically researching heat transfer in zone-melt recrystallization.  Afterwards, he spent several years with Accenture consulting, working on computer architectures for the telecommunications industry.  He returned to school for his PhD in Applied Physics from Columbia University.  His thesis is on Phase Transitions in Metal Oxide Nanoparticles.  During that time he worked briefly at Bell Laboratories in the Physical Research Laboratory under Aron Pinczuk and Loren Pfeiffer.  After his PhD, Richard won a postdoctoral fellowship at University of California, Berkeley/LBNL in the research group of Paul Alivisatos.  There, he worked on nanoparticle synthesis, chemical transformations of nanoparticles, and advanced property characterizations of nanoparticles.  In 2008 Richard began a faculty position at Cornell University.  Robinson has won a number of awards including, the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award, the NSF CAREER award, and the R&D 100 Award.

Dr. Richard Robinson
Vanderbilt University