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Materials Science and Engineering Colloquium

Event Type
Materials Science and Engineering Department
100 Materials Science and Engineering Building
Feb 4, 2013   4:00 pm  
Bryan Wong, Materials Chemistry Department, Sandia National Laboratories
Originating Calendar
MatSE Seminars

"Energy transfer in molecular photovoltaics, carbon nanotubes, and nanowires - a first-principles perspective" -- The ability to tune electronic properties in molecular photovoltaics and nanomaterials holds great promise for incorporating these materials in next-generation transistors, circuits, and nanoscale devices. In particular, the use of predictive first-principles calculations plays a vital role in rationally guiding experimental efforts to optimize energy harvesting in nanoscale and mesoscale materials. In this seminar, I will highlight my recent work in using various quantum-mechanical approaches for understanding and predicting the electronic properties in light-harvesting molecules, functionalized carbon nanotubes, and heterostructure nanowires. First, I will demonstrate that both the optical properties and excitation energies in photovoltaic molecules can be accurately predicted by constructing new exchange-correlation functionals for time-dependent density functional theory (DFT). Next, I will discuss the use of large-scale DFT calculations to understand optical detection mechanisms in chromophore-functionalized carbon nanotubes. Through joint experimental-theoretical studies, I will show that a single-walled carbon nanotube functionalized with light-sensitive chromophores can function as a sensitive nanoscale color detector, where the chromophores serve as photoabsorbers and the nanotube operates as the electronic read-out. Finally, I will present a new theoretical approach to understand electron localization effects in heterostructure nanowires. At nanoscale dimensions, the formation of mobile electron gases in AlGaN/GaN core-shell nanowires can lead to degenerate quasi-one-dimensional electron localization, in striking contrast to what would be expected from analogy with bulk heterojunctions. The reduction in dimensionality produced by confining electrons in these nanoscale structures results in a dramatic change in their electronic structure, leading to novel properties such as ballistic transport and conductance quantization.

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