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Niezgoda, J. Scott
Chemistry, Materials

Research Information

Ph.D. candidate, Materials Chemistry

Ph.D. Thesis Advisor
Sandra Rosenthal


As a part of the Rosenthal Lab, my research involves the synthesis and application of semiconductor nanocrystals, or "quantum dots". These materials range in composition from simple binary alloys (CdSe, PbS, CuS, etc.) to more complex species such as ternary (CuInS2, etc.) and so-called core-shell (i.e. ZnS/CdSe) structures. Quantum dots are essentially a real-world version of the classic particle in a box problem taught in every Intro to Quantum Mechanics course; as the size of a quantum dot (the "box") gets smaller and smaller, the quantum states in the system gain energy. This qualitative explanation results physically in what is known as size-tunable band gap characteristics, in which the band gap of a particular material can be increased by making the dimensions of the material so small that excited electrons within the dot contain more energy than a similar excited electron in a bulk piece of the same material.

My particular research involves the application of these quantum dots as light absorbers in photovoltaics, or solar cells. Through harnessing the high absorptivity and tunable band gap characteristics, I search for ways to implement these particles into new, relatively inexpensive, and non-toxic forms of photovoltaics that might one day compete with the current bulk crystalline forms of photovoltaics on the market, which are highly limited in their theoretical efficiency values.

Recently, I have completed work outlining the synthesis of a form of CuInS2 quantum dots (publication forthcoming) that display pronounced localized surface plasmon resonance bands in the near infrared region. My hope is to implement these nanocrystals into a novel form of photovoltaic which takes advantage of the interesting properties of both quantum dots and plasmonic effects to show improvements over past reports of quantum dot photovoltaic efficiencies.

Reseach News @ Vanderbilt - High school students turn blackberries into solar cells
Research Blog @ Vanderbilt - Professor Rosenthal goes to Washington


Vanderbilt University