Welcome to the Nanoscale Materials for Energy Lab, directed by Prof. Richard Robinson at Cornell University.  Our research in nanomaterials involves three related areas: (1) chemical synthesis and their assemblies for applications, (2) nanostructured materials for energy applications, and (3) low-dimensional phonon heat transfer.   The common theme is energy, as all our materials and methods are being developed for energy applications.  Our target applications are thermoelectrics, catalysts for fuel cells, and batteries.

Nanomaterials provide a unique set of morphologies and properties not seen at the bulk scale.  The effects of quantum confinement, acoustic confinement, and the high surface to volume ratio leads to size tunable properties, stabilization of uncommon phases, and unique finite-size effects and reactivities.   Through our work we hope to leverage these interesting properties for the betterment of energy production.  Important to all our work is that we strive to develop environmentally friendly materials and synthetic techniques, and through scalable nanomanufacturing.

Nanoparticle Synthesis and Devices

We utilize the “bottom-up” approach to synthesize monodisperse nanoparticles through colloidal chemistry.  The size, composition, and shape of these nanoparticles are tuned by controlling reaction conditions.  Our aim is to create rational methods for synthetic nanochemistry to spawn a wide array of new nanomaterials for energy applications.  Target applications include catalysts, batteries, and thermoelectrics.  

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Nanostructured Materials for Energy

By creating nanostructured materials for energy applications we are leveraging the unique properties of nanomaterials such as electronic and acoustic confinement.  Other advantages of nanostructured materials are their high surface to volume ratio.  Our focus in this area is on metals and complex metal oxides.  A variety of compositions and shapes are being explored for use in application-specific devices.  Important to all our work is that we maintain environmentally friendly materials and synthetic techniques, and produce the materials through scalable nanomanufacturing. 



Phonon Spectrometer for Nanoscale Heat Transport 

We are designing and building a microscale phonon spectrometer to cover the range of frequencies from 100 GHz to 1 THz. Heat flowing conventionally through a material includes phonons from a broad range of this spectrum. The spectrometer will instead probe the behavior of narrow bands of frequencies and wavelengths, allowing us to pinpoint the effects of the nanoscale geometry. In our prototype spectrometer, we emit phonons of controlled wavelength into a silicon microstructure and detect those that traverse the sample ballistically.

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