News Research

June 6, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Nanoscale Materials Engineer John Staser Takes Quantum Dots Research to Next Level

By Raymond Humienny
NQPI editorial intern

New to the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Assistant Professor John Staser is no stranger to Ohio University. Staser became a professor at OHIO in 2013, and now he’s bringing his research on carbon quantum dots to a new audience.

“Along the lines of NQPI’s mission, we’re using these nanoscale materials to make new types of electrochemical materials,” Staser said.

With chemical engineering degrees from Case Western (B.S.) and the University of South Carolina-Columbia (Ph.D.), Staser has been integrating carbon quantum dots with UV sensors to expand the device’s applicability. Carbon quantum dots are carbon plates or disks (tiny flakes of graphene) between two and ten nanometers in diameter that possess fluorescent properties. Their unique optical properties are due to quantum confinement effects arising from their sizes. Researchers have been scrambling to make sense of this phenomenon and put it to useful application. A few current ideas involve UV detection for military-grade equipment (i.e. rapid detection of missiles or enemy personnel) and overexposure to UV rays from the sun, Staser said.

“People have thought about coupling (carbon quantum dots active in the UV range) with normal solar cells to increase the wavelength range over which solar panels operate because solar panels don’t typically do very well under the UV range,” Staser said.

Staser’s current involvement with NQPI complements Physics & Astronomy Professor Martin Kordesch’s research with molybdenum disulfide. With help from Honors Tutorial College senior Ari Blumer and the State of Ohio’s Coal Development office, Staser and Kordesch are producing carbon quantum dots from coal and coupling them with molybdenum disulfide to make supercapacitors.

“Because of its electrochemical activity, (this combination) stores energy by charge transfer processes,” Staser said. “It’s like a hybrid capacitor electrode.”

Supercapacitors are exciting because they have applications ranging from small-scale energy storage, like cell phones and wearable sensors, all the way up to grid-scale storage for renewable energy. Additionally, energy storage for electrical vehicles, such as plug-in hybrid cars, benefit from supercapacitor efficiency. Staser’s research positions OHIO as a leader in this new frontier of energy conservation.

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