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Clemson Professor Receives NSF CAREER Award to Study New Class of Materials

Clemson chemistry assistant professor Rhett Smith will receive $598,000 in a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study a new class of materials that conduct electrical currents and can be used in thin, lightweight and flexible plastic electronic devices.

These are some organized plastic materials under ultraviolet light. Because the materials absorb and brightly emit different colors of light, they are good candidates for displays and solar cells. photo by: Clemson University

"Some of the most exciting applications that are targeted are ultrathin, flexible displays like television and computer screens or displays in hand-held electronics," said Smith. "Another exciting application that could have an even bigger impact on society is thin-film solar cells to harvest energy from the sun as a renewable, potentially cheaper alternative to petroleum and coal-based energy resources."

Smith's research aims to reveal fundamental insight into how molecular-level organization of the material creates the plastic and dictates how it performs and how material combinations interact and conduct electrical currents.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the missions of their organizations. Smith's goal is to include a service-learning program, outreach and the development of polymer-science courses to increase awareness and participation in physical sciences. He also wants to mimic graduate-school research at the undergraduate level.

Smith received a bachelor's degree in 2000 from the University of Toledo and his Ph.D. in 2004 from Case Western Reserve University. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Clemson in 2006. His research focus includes the synthesis and applications of organic and inorganic materials for plastic electronic technologies.

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