Researchers receive energy grant

Grant money will be used to develop a new clean energy infrastructure.

Grant money will be used to develop a new clean energy infrastructure.

The Energy Commercialization Institute awarded a total of $510,000 to university-based research projects in Philadelphia. Researchers at Temple’s College of Engineering are taking advantage of the funding.

Dr. Dmitri Vainchtein and Dr. Svetlana Neretina will collaborate with researchers from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University on two of five funded projects.

This grant will support the development of new technologies that will help build Southeastern Pennsylvania’s alternative energy infrastructure.

“Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania in general, is certainly making significant strides in the area of clean energy. There are numerous wind farms in the state and solar cells are becoming more and more prevalent,” Neretina said in an e-mail.

Vainchtein will work with Dr. Alexander Fridman from Drexel to develop methods for the efficient and large-scale production of hydrogen.

Neretina will work with researchers from the other universities on the large-scale fabrication of printable hybrid solar cells.

Hydrogen can be separated from the molecule in many ways: heat, chemical agents and plasma. The most efficient way, with plasma, requires a gliding arc, something like a lightning bolt between two electrodes.

Vainchtein said he will face an obstacle of increasing the power of the gliding arc because of several limitations to increasing the electric current.

“Plasma methods are already known, but what we want to do is make it bigger and sufficiently powerful, to make it economically and physically meaningful,” Vainchtein said. “The problem is it’s not that easy to scale up, there are some physical barriers to this. We will identify difficult elements in this scaling up process, by constructing mathematical models of certain parts of the phenomenon.”

Neretina’s research involves using low-cost, high-volume inkjet printing technologies to deliver solution-processed photovoltaic materials onto flexible substrates.

This technology has significant advantages over bulky, high-cost, rigid-silicon technologies and has the potential to be at the forefront of next-generation solar cell manufacturing processes.

“Realizing the tremendous potential of this new technology will require that a number of technical hurdles be overcome in the areas of ink formulation, print-head design, the choice of an appropriate substrate material, printing patterns and process scale-up,” Neretina said.

This multi-institutional collaboration brings together a multidisciplinary team, integrating expertise on organic and inorganic PV materials, complex fluid physics, inkjet printing technology, solar cell characterization, and device integrations and reliability for the realization of large-scale printable solar cells.

Neretina’s team, which consists of both graduate and undergraduate students, will be working to produce materials to produce renewable energy sources.

“Clean energy technologies reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and America’s reliance on foreign sources of energy,” Neretina said.

According to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ website, the ECI is funded by a two-year $1.2 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvainia.

Paul Spaeth can be reached at

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