San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 2nd, 2009
Texas State researchers receive Cottrell Award


The Research Corporation for Science Advancement recently award the Cottrell College Science Award to Texas State researchers for their work with electricity-conducting polymers.

Jennifer Irvin of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with Byounghak Lee and Wilhelmus Geerts of the Department of Physics, received the $100,000 prize for their two-year project,  “Chemistry and Physics of n-Doping Electroactive Polymers: Computationally Directed Synthesis for Improved Performance.”

The process of “Doping” involves intentionally introducing impurities into an extremely pure semiconductor in order to change its electrical properties. An environment of inert gas is essential for n-Doping.

“N-doping electroactive polymers conduct electrons, but n-doping polymers are notoriously unstable,” explained Irvin. “We are trying to find ways to make them more stable by better understanding their properties.”

She said that such polymers would have a variety of practical uses, potentially serving as capacitors to boost power in electric vehicles and could also serve to improve display technologies like light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and electrochromics.

The research is a cross disciplinary effort where the expertise of synthetic chemists, theoretical physicists and experimental physicists combine for cooperative success. During the research, chemistry students interact with physics students to model, design, synthesize and characterize novel polymer conductors. The Cottrell Award specifically promotes the opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in cutting-edge research.

“It takes all three of our principal researchers for this project to succeed,” said Irvin. “Dr. Lee is the modeler — he predicts the properties the polymers will have. I synthesize the materials, and Dr. Geerts is going to test them and make sure they work the way we expect them to. We’re building collaboration across different departments. This is a good example of how physicists and chemists can work together.”

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