Aluminum-Based Heterocycles as New Optoelectronic Materials

Chemical Engineering; Materials Chemistry; Inorganic Chemistry; Organic Chemistry

This project will explore the synthesis and optical properties of aluminum-doped 5-membered ring heterocycles as new materials. The studies will impact next-gen electronics and display technologies.

Research Interests
  • Optoelectronics
  • Materials Design

Artificial lighting consumes ~20% of the global energy produced, and rising population growth is projected to result in a 50% increase in demand by 2030. By transitioning to advanced technologies such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the electricity used on lighting can be cut in half (based on the U.S. Department of Energy projections). While there have been substantial advances in technologies that rely on optoelectronic and light-emitting materials (e.g., TVs, computer and cell phone screens), a number of challenges still remain and there are opportunities to develop next-generation energy-efficient materials that have a lower cost associated with the production, enhanced optical selectivity, and better long-term performance. For example, with aluminum being one of the most abundant metals on the periodic table, advances in aluminum-based optoelectronic materials would result in new cost-effective electronics for processes that currently rely on expensive precious metals such as gold. In this 3 Cavs project, we propose a new collaborative effort between Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Electrical & Computer Engineering research groups to synthesize aluminum-centered heterocycles, study their solution-phase and solid-state optical properties, and explore their device capability for a variety of optoelectronic applications that are critical to the design of future energy-materials. The environmental and temporal stability of these materials will also be studied. The research teams will prepare suitable coordinating ligand systems to control the optical output (e.g., fluorescence, phosphorescence) of various materials resulting in the formation of inexpensive and air-stable aluminum-centered heterocycles that behave as novel functional materials.

Desired outcomes

Success in this research area would lead to transformative advances across multiple fields of science and engineering and will have a substantial impact on advanced lighting, display technologies, and could even impact the design of new processes for harvesting solar energy. Investigating this research topic would also serve as a means to acquire preliminary data that would allow the University of Virginia to be competitive on a national stage for funding at agencies such as the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research Office. The research initiatives outlined in this project would also complement UVA’s rapidly expanding profile in sustainability and renewable energy, utilizing base materials that are recyclable, non-toxic, and earth-abundant. In addition to the aforementioned applications, this project will result in fundamental advances in energy conversion by allowing scientists to correlate chemical structure with material function, thereby enhancing front-end design capabilities and ultimately increasing our ability to prepare tailor-made materials for specific industrial needs. It is expected that this work will result in both peer-reviewed publications and intellectual property.