The research activities are focused on enabling accelerated innovation in manufacturing to develop and scale up materials streams and production processes that are more renewable, earth friendly, and safer for human health. Our fundamental scientific research aims to build a foundation of knowledge and practices that are adaptive to the needs and well-being of frontline communities, workers and consumers of the evolving renewable economy.
Areas of research include:
- Accelerated computational and experimental methods for materials discovery for safe manufacturing
- Machine learning methods for quantifying risk assessment of materials toxicity and identifying pathways for environmentally safe manufacturing
- Development of decision-making tools for assessing materials safety
- Analysis of socioeconomic data to assess the impact of materials and manufacturing on frontline communities
Some examples of our projects include:
Molecular fingerprinting of chemically complex oxides
Understanding the molecular scale mechanisms governing the degradation of materials used in the fabrication of solar devices and panels is key in developing new materials and/or processes that extend the lifetime of performance and minimize environmental impact. We are using high throughput computational chemistry screening techniques that integrate information on bond geometry and bond chemistry to explore the development of unique chemical fingerprints that relate to chemical reactivity of multicomponent ceramics and alloys that are used in solar cells and panels.
Informatics based modeling for predictive toxicology
Of major concern is the environmental impact associated with the degradation of solar panels at the end-of-life when disposed of in landfills. We are applying a broad based of statistical learning tools on large and diverse multivariate data of materials properties that are known to be influential in the health hazards associated with degradation of the different materials used in solar panel manufacturing. This has permitted us to develop quantitative models to predict the relative impact of new materials chemistries on toxicity.
Spectroscopic investigation of solar materials
In addition to designing safer materials, ensuring those materials have a long lifetime will minimize the overall environmental impact. As an experimental complement to the computational materials design component, we are investigating different materials using various spectroscopic methods. By measuring structural, vibrational, and energetic fingerprints we can improve the computational screening aspect. This creates a positive feedback loop in which experimental data bolsters the informatics, which better guides and accelerates the materials design process.