By Gary Thomas
North Dakota State University’s assistant professor for chemistry and biochemistry, Dr. Svetlana Kilina, has received the prestigious Early Career Research Program award from the United States Department of Energy for her research on quantum dots titled “Modeling of Photoexcited Process at Interfaces of Functionalized Quantum Dots.”
Assistant Professor Svetlana Kilina for NDSU
The award entitles Dr. Kilina to a project funding of $750,000 over a five year period. Dr. Kilina is one amongst 68 awardees selected from a list of over 850 applicants from various institutes and laboratories.
Dr. Kilina’s research is in a field that intersperses nanotechnology, renewable energy, chemistry and high performance computing. The premise of her work is to develop next generation fuel and solar cells from materials consisting of quantum dots. Quantum dots, which were discovered in the 1980s, are nanocrystals varying in size between 2 to 10 nm. In spite of their extremely miniscule size, they exert tremendous impact on semiconductor technology. When quantum dots are energized, they emit and absorb light where the color of the light is determined by the dot size. Quantum dots are deemed to be more efficient in conversion of light into energy and vice versa as light of one quant can produce two electron-hole pairs as opposed to a single pair produced by traditional energy generating materials. This makes quantum dots very promising candidates for solar power generation. However, the application of quantum dots in solar power generation is impeded by the surface chemistry of quantum dots which make them extremely reactive to components in the air or surrounding solvent. The surrounding molecules form a layer on the surface of quantum dots and influence their electronic and optical properties. Dr. Kilina’s work aims to gain better insight into the surface chemistry of quantum dots through simulated experiments on supercomputers.