Clean Energy Research Grant – 2020 Recap

With the start of a new year, the Foundation would like to celebrate the achievements of the 2021 TLCERF recipients and recognise the work their accomplished over their funding period. Like 2020, this past year has certainly been a challenging time. But despite the various interruptions due to COVID-19, it was a productive year for our three TLCERF grant recipients. All three candidates accomplished a lot over the unpredictable year, all while navigating the various interruptions that the ongoing pandemic brought.

Below is a recap of grant recipients’ research activities, milestones and accomplishments for the past year.

Eli Martel – Three-terminal suspended graphene energy efficient switches

McGill University (PhD, Physics)

  • Eli and his team published a review article, highlighting key design parameters based on preliminary calculations that can be used to optimize fabrication of future three-terminal suspended graphene switch devices (T. Szkopek and E. Martel, Suspended graphene electromechanical switches for energy efficient electronics, Progress in Quantum Electronics p.100315, 2021: LINK).
  • Presented his research at the Graphene Canada Online Conference (November 2020), concerning his theoretical work (“Three-Terminal Suspended Graphene Energy Efficient Switches”)
  • Initial experiments were performed in early 2021, where operating voltages around 2.5 V were achieved. These results were instrumental in designing new fabrication tools (such as photolithography masks and electron beam lithography masks) in order to obtain devices with operating voltages below 1V, thanks to the support from TLCERF.
  • Preliminary experimental data and financial backing from TLCERF allowed Eli to secure further support from partners such as FRQNT for the project (FRQNT team research project, Graphene Nanomechanics for Steep-Slope Switches, led by T. Szkopek).
  • With their new fabrication tools and design considerations, Eli and team have already begun working on the next generation of the devices. These will overcome many of the hurdles we encountered in early tests, such as enabling lower switching voltages, improved switching reliability and higher yield of devices.

Sean Thornton – Semiconductor perovskites for solution-processed photovoltaic devices

Dalhousie University (PhD, Chemical Engineering)

  • Sean passed his comprehensive examination and was subsequently awarded the Solid State Pharma Graduate Award based on the impact of his work on advancing science in the area of Chemical Engineering and the significance of his research to contribution to society.
  • Sean and his team published a review article in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, focused on the path forward towards realizing lead-free perovskite solar cells (S. Thornton et al., Progress towards lead-free, efficient, and stable perovskite solar cells, Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 2021: LINK)
  • Sean produced perovskite devices that showed enhanced performance in response to weak light signals and improved their stability over one year of testing and analyzed them at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) in Saskatoon. This data will be used in 3 upcoming peer-reviewed publications.
  • Sean attended the Enabling a Sustainable Energy Future Conference, the Smart Energy Event 2021, and the Clean Technologies Research Institute (CTRI) Research Days event.
  • Sean was appointed President of the Student Energy Chapter at Dalhousie (part of an international youth-led organization empowering the next generation of leaders who are accelerating the transition to a sustainable, equitable energy future) and quadrupled student involvement at Dalhousie while leading the team towards events on sustainable energy technologies and environmental racism.
  • Sean was accepted into the Leaders in Energy Sustainability (LES) training program at Dalhousie, a Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) initiative funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). This program empowers trainees with research excellence skills by working with international energy leaders and will produce highly qualified energy professionals ready to ensure Canada’s role as a global leader in the emerging energy revolution.

Alexandra Tully – Investigating charge transfer in organic solar cells

University of British Columbia (PhD, Physics)

  • Over the past year, Alexandra perfected growth recipes for her organic solar cell films and acquired angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) data to help map the energy landscape of these films.
  • Alexandra also built software infrastructure in Python to analyze ARPES and low-energy electron diffraction (LEED) data.
  • Alexandra was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Doctoral Scholarship (NSERC PGS D).
  • Alexandra was accepted to present her work at the Electronic Processes in Organic Materials Gordon Research Conference (2020). Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to Covid-19, but Alexandra intends to present at the re-established conference in the upcoming summer.
  • The TLCERF grant will enable Alexandra to spend time this coming year with collaborators at both Oxford University and Lund University to work on different organic photovoltaic materials and perform complimentary film-characterization measurements.
  • Currently, Alexandra is working on theoretical calculations to accompany her experimental data, writing her PhD thesis proposal, and serving as the head teaching assistant for UBC’s 2nd year engineering physics lab.

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