Nobel Prize winner headlines symposium

Mark Haymond

Nobel Laureate Alan J. Heeger laid the groundwork for the “solar cells” that may power the future.

He’ll be addressing the technology as the keynote speaker at the Organic Photovoltaics Symposium in the Kiva from 12:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Heeger won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2000. He is a professor of polymer chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research into conductive polymers laid the groundwork for flexible solar technology which is now being developed.

Kent State’s Brett Ellman, associate physics professor, is one of the six presenters at the symposium. He believes this technology may power the future.

“The ultimate dream would be a paint you could put on your house and make the entire house a solar cell,” Ellman said. Ellman admits that such a thing won’t exist for a long time, if ever, but if that day does come, it will be thanks in large part to today’s presenters.

Robert Twieg is a Kent State chemistry and biochemistry professor, and the other local presenter in the symposium.

“Heeger and others began developing the knowledge to make organic materials into conductors,” Twieg said. “Before their research, polymers were only seen as insulators.”

Organic photovoltaic technology enables solar panels to be more flexible and potentially cheaper than current technology. Most solar cells produced now use silicon as their main component, and are relatively fragile and difficult to manufacture.

The symposium is part of a new research and development initiative by the university called flexPV which will focus in this new technology.

“The conference is kind of a promotion for the university and general public to get people aware of this field,” Twieg said.

In a letter welcoming presenters, Grant McGimpsey, vice president of research, says there is a future for this type of research at Kent State. Ellman and Twieg both hope he is right.

“Grant is very big on this, which I am happy to hear,” Ellman said.

Twieg said he would like to see Kent State at the forefront of this field. He believes for that to happen, the school better be ready with the resources and faculty needed for the endeavor.

“There is a significant amount of competition in this area,” Twieg said. “In research, it’s always nice to be right there on top of the wave, but not everyone fits there at one time.”

Presenters will examine the current state of organic photovoltaic research. The symposium is free and open to the public. After the final presenter there will be a catered reception.

Contact Mark Haymond at [email protected].