George Wei is an undergraduate in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. He is an intern at the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2013, working with Professor Jing Li.
1. Please describe your research in a way that would be understandable to someone without any scientific or technical background. The Li Lab focuses on research primarily in the areas of solid-state inorganic chemistry and inorganic-organic hybrid materials. We aim to design, synthesize, characterize, and modify inorganic clusters, solids, and molecules with improved and enhanced functionality that are potentially important for clean and renewable energy storage and conversion. These energy storage and conversion methods include photovoltaics, solid-state lighting, thermoelectric, gas storage and separation, and catalysis. More specifically, my research is focused on engineering novel I-VII based crystalline inorganic-organic hybrid semiconductors for use in solid-state lighting. We are trying to develop hybrid materials that have well-defined and precisely controllable crystal structures and compositions, particularly as a means of influencing physical properties like emission properties, intensity, quantum yield, and color quality. We use a variety of techniques in our group, including solid-state synthesis, X-ray crystallography, spectroscopy, and gas sorption analysis.
2. How did you come to be involved in this research? After taking Inorganic Chemistry, I was introduced to a new domain of chemistry and was fascinated with the different coordination compounds and reactions of the inorganic world, but I did not want to give up organic chemistry. Li’s group combines both organic and inorganic components in her solid-state lab.
3. Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? As globalization of the world continues, our energy demands are forecasted to increase. Reduction of energy use leads to an inefficient society but ironically at this pace our world will cease to exist in the near future. Our dependence on fossil fuels and rare earth metals in current technology has dimmed our future. It is therefore critical to create new generations of affordable technology that are more efficient in converting energy, and also rare-earth free. Solid-state lighting (“SSL”) technology in the form of light-emitting diodes (“LEDs”) generates high-efficient light sources, and converts electricity into light up to 25% more effectively than conventional lighting sources, but most types contain rare earth phosphors. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that switching to LED lighting over the next two decades could save the country $250 billion in energy costs over that period; this reduces the electricity consumption for lighting by nearly one half, and avoids 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emission. The reduction in energy use and carbon emission per lumen of light will be drastically reduced if the whole world followed suit. Our aim is to design a class of rare-earth free phosphors that can phase out current phosphors. We have made significant progress in developing bulk hybrid materials that have a simple 1-step, 1-pot solution process for making the organic-inorganic crystal. Perhaps, one step at a time, we can light our energy future and lead the way to a brighter, cleaner one.