Nano and energy

One nice aspect about JUAMI has been the opportunity to make connections between different energy technologies and the materials upon which they rely. As an example, a common thread is the crucial role of nanoscale features in top-performing materials for nearly all the different technologies covered at the school.
  • In supercapacitors, nanoscale carbon-based materials improve energy density by increasing the surface area for electrostatic energy storage.
  • In dye-sensitized solar cells, nanoporous TiO2 is crucial to maximize surface area for dye molecules to transfer their photoexcited electrons.
  • For bulk heterojunction organic photovoltaics, the nanoscale phase separation of donor and acceptor components maximizes the interfacial area needed to split photogenerated excitons.
  • Nanoscale morphology can also increase thermoelectric (heat-to-electric) figure-of-merit via reduction of lattice thermal conductivity.
These are just a few examples – the list goes on and on!

What an amazing two weeks

In the first two days back in the United States, I found it harder than expected to revert back to life as normal. There's obvious things like the temperature on the east coast and the time zone change. Then there are little things, like remembering to bring a cell phone and ID to a bar, finding new appreciation for traffic lights, sitting alone for extended periods at a computer with internet, and sadly drinking sub-par coffee.

I have a hard time explaining to friends and family what made the whole JUAMI experience so special. Of course it was exciting to travel abroad and experience a new country. For all the nerds out there, it's also pretty cool to talk about how we had amazing lectures from professors across the world, and basically had a semester-long course on energy materials from experts - all crammed into 2 weeks. (For the non-nerds, it's a bit hard to explain why having class from 9-6 every day was such a great experience).

To be honest, I went to JUAMI not knowing what to expect. How many of us can really claim to have this cross cultural scientific experience we had..

  • Failing to describe the consistency of injera batter as runny or thick, but ultimately succeeding with "viscosity"
  • Working on optional problem sets with groups of people from all different countries and academic backgrounds, and having everyone in the group working to make sure each other understood the material? The entire room missed the beginning of coffee hour because we wanted to finish these problem sets
  • Heading back to the hotel on a bus with no air conditioning and plenty of radiative heat from the engine, and hearing discussions between an American student and Ethiopian student on programming in python
  • Lots more collaborative programming at breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Having your team pep talk before a football match be, "Play like a supercapacitor! High power! Fast charge! Fast discharge!"
  • Watching the team proposal projects evolve from utter chaos on Tuesday night to polished presentations on Thursday afternoon 
I didn't expect to make such great friends at JUAMI in two weeks. That is truly the hardest thing to describe to friends and family - that these two weeks were so special because of the people. That despite the short duration of JUAMI and our different backgrounds, these are people we call our friends and will keep in touch with. Thank you all for the wonderful memories! I hope we meet again :)

Electricity from the hot Ethiopian sun

Working together to harvest electricity from the Addis Ababa sunshine!

Working in groups we made dye sensitized photovoltaic cells that we had learned about in the morning.  Here Nella and Tom Mallouk (not shown...he was upstairs working with the other half of the school on the theory) from Penn State University in the USA shows us how and then we have to figure out how to do it for ourselves.  The cells take sunshine and turn it directly into an electric current that we measured with voltmeters and ohmeters.

They all worked!  We then measured their efficiency and power output, before running inside before we got too sunburned.

So... what do we have in common?

When Team Surge first got together, it wasn’t very clear what we could possibly have in common. We all studied energy materials, but being spread out over four countries, it seemed crazy to imagine something we all shared. After a few conversations, though, it became clear that every member of the team loved two things: music and dance.

Since JUAMI 2012 was about equal parts research and cultural exchange, we saw an opportunity. Most of the group had not yet heard of the pop culture phenomenon “Gangnam Style,” a song and dance created by South Korean artist PSY, and thus an idea was born. What if we could use this song and dance to promote cultural exchange, and introduce this phenomenon to a place where it was little known?

Shoham and Steve had both heard the song and learned the dance back in the United States, so after holding some breath and crossing a few fingers, we were able to load the music video on Youtube. The whole group watched the video with a mix of confusion and awe.

And then it was time to learn the dance! As the group followed along, there were times there we really got the steps:

…and some times that we didn’t:

In the end though, everyone learned the dance, and bonded over our one true common denominator: our love of new experiences.

Learning takes many forms at JUAMI!

Through hands-on experiments....
And problem solving....
To learning and respecting the beauty of nature...

And appreciating the culture of our host country...

Addis Ababa University: Moving ever upward ...

and ever forward ...

Joint US-Africa Materials Institute: Through labor ...

and leisure ...

we join hands to promote renewable energy research and provide the power for a green tomorrow.
Glassware in the Chemistry labs at University of Addis Ababa, seen during our tour on 12/11/12.  Thanks to the Chemistry Department for their Hospitality!

Coffee break

My first cup of Ethiopian coffee!

The Energy Outlook

Today was the first day of the school and we covered a lot of ground.

First, Professor Peter Green from UMich gave a broad overview of the current energy outlook worldwide. Although fossil fuels still dominate the scene, renewables are on the rise and Prof. Green seemed very optimistic about the future. With recent failures of U.S. renewable energy companies such as A123 Systems and Konarka Technologies, I am a little more worried about the future. But maybe this just underscores the need for improved materials for clean energy technology, which is what this school is all about. Other issues that were raised include the role of energy efficiency, the need to couple energy production from intermittent sources (e.g. solar and wind) to energy storage, and the extent to which implementing renewables in Africa can help alleviate poverty.

In addition to several coffee breaks and a lunch to allow for participants to meet and continue the discussions, today we experienced a whirlwind set of lectures about different classes of materials and techniques in materials science. We heard from Prof. Sossina Haile (Caltech) on ionics, Prof. Jeff Snyder (Caltech) on semiconductors, Prof. Green on polymers, and Prof. Simon Billinge (Columbia) on characterization techniques.

It has been so exciting to meet different students from the U.S. and Africa and learn about their background and interests. Even though we are on opposite sides of the world, we are connected by a passion to make advances in materials science that will help solve the energy problem. Despite barriers in language and culture, we are learning a lot about each other and rapidly becoming colleagues and friends.

Arrived in Addis!

After a long couple days of travel (with 4 or so hours stuck on the runway in Frankfurt due to icy weather...), I arrived in Addis just in time for the start of JUAMI 2012!

The Panorama Hotel is really nice, nicer than I expected. My new friend Jane from UMD said it was listed on the "splurge" category on Wikitravel and I am inclined to agree! It's really modern and has all the expected amenities. Other than some issue with the shower hot water pressure, I am impressed.

I am rooming with Desalegn Godebo, a student from a university a few hundred kilometers south of here called Arba Minch University. For his master's degree he worked on organic solar cells with P3HT/PCBM. Since I previously worked in this field, we have a lot to chat about!

This winter school is really a special opportunity to come to Ethiopia and learn about renewable energy materials while making connections with scientists in Africa. I thank the organizers of this winter school as well as the NSF, the ICMR at UCSB, the MRS, and the African MRS for the funding and support.

Changing the World

It's possible.

In Case You Missed It

We wouldn't want you to miss out!

Above and Beyond

Reaching new heights.

Common Denominators

They're a good thing.

Friends and Trends

Let's make them last.

Did You See That?

Because I sure did.

Hands On

This is how it's done.

Near and Far

Come on, come all.

Who Knew?

Now you know!

Be My Guest

You should have guessed it.

Mixing It Up

Expect the unexpected.

Science In Action

After all, that's why we're all here.

Culinary Corner

Yum. Could I get some more of that?

At First Glance

There's more than just what meets the eye.

Addis Angles

There's no right angle here--feel free to go acute or obtuse. What's your angle?