2014 Graduate Fellows / Graduate Fellows

Megan Duda

Graduate Student, Chemistry

Synthesis of One-dimensional Metal Polymers Supported by Polymeric Organic Ligands for Use in Photovolatic Devices

My research focuses on finding methods for making novel types of photovoltaics, or materials that are capable of generating electricity from sunlight. Generally speaking, photovoltaics are classified as either inorganic, meaning they are made of metal or metalloid elements, or organic. Many of the organic materials are polymers that are low cost, scalable to industrial processing, and very efficient at absorbing sunlight; however, they are poor conductors of electricity, which ultimately limits their practical use. Metals, on the other hand, are great conductors, but the amount of sunlight they are able to convert to chemical energy is restricted. Our strategy is to exploit the most desirable features of the two respective types of photovoltaics by making materials that combine structural elements of each. We’ve designed our materials to have metal nanowires that are chemically bonded to polymer chains. The nanowire component is an efficient electrical conductor, while the polymer portion of the material confers many of the highly desirable characteristics of an organic photovoltaic. Ultimately, these materials will allow us to tap the most sustainable and obvious, yet elusive, source of energy in the world, while significantly reducing our reliance on unsustainable forms of energy. Working on this project with the support of the Clean Energy Institute has allowed me to apply my knowledge of organometallic complexes to an entirely different, highly collaborative, and application-focused field, an opportunity for which I am immensely grateful. This experience will surely prove invaluable as I pursue a career at the intersection of cutting-edge clean energy research and entrepreneurship.

“Providing clean energy to the inhabitants of our planet is a major challenge to future generations. The University of Washington is to be congratulated for establishing an Institute where faculty and students can work together to tackle the difficult global challenge of energy sustainability.”
– Mildred Dresselhaus, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, Emerita and Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Energy competition is opening up in a variety of ways, the push for carbon control will continue, and the rate of technology advancement is exponential. All the things I’ve seen at the CEI are just perfect for the way we see things going in energy. You guys are at the cutting edge. We’re counting on you.”
– Ronald Litzinger, President, Edison Energy
Since its founding the Clean Energy Institute has contributed more than $1.1 million toward the education of 66 STEM scholars and recruitment of 12 students through our fellowship programs.