A robust material having water as a major component? Such idea of “aqua materials” (or “aqua plastics”) sounds like science fiction? Think biomaterials – some of them are really strong! Bio-inspired, we construct materials that are assembled in aqueous media and/or have water as a major component, enabling both robustness and stimuli-responsiveness. Addressing the noble goal of Sustainability, our aqua materials are capable of facile assembly/disassembly that leads to easy fabrication and recycling. In terms of function, separation membranes and photonic materials are our primary targets.
Can one create a new world of robust functional materials constructed entirely from small molecules? We employ understanding of crystallization mechanisms in order to fabricate soluble and tunable organic nanocrystals (ONCs) from simple aromatic molecules. These nanocrystals possess advantageous photonic and electronic functionality such as nonlinear optical properties, efficient energy and charge transfer, etc. We also develop new bulk materials based on ONCs. In the world of ONCs, simplicity and tunability of the molecular systems and the assembly processes enable creating very easily and with high degree of control virtually unlimited toolbox for new materials.
Cheap and stable solar cells that are easy to make can be a game changer in field of alternative energy. Perovskite solar cells can be very efficient and cheap, yet they suffer from reproducibility and stability issues. We address these challenges via mechanistic studies on perovskite crystallization and via creating novel hole transport and electrode materials that simplify and stabilize perovskite devices. Ultimately, we seek robust and cost-efficient cells that are made via self-assembly or simply “painted” on top of electrodes.
We study mechanisms of self-assembly, and crystallization in particular, in order to rationally design self-assembled materials. Such mechanistic information is notoriously elusive. For example, understanding and control over crystal nucleation is a Holy Grail in chemistry. We can see pieces of the Grail via methodology developed in our lab: DIRECT STRUCTURAL IMAGING of assembly (crystallization) processes using state-of-the-art methods of cryogenic electron microscopy. Seeing is believing…