Revisiting our Goals

By Sarah Chiang

Scheduling interviews has gotten a bit slower now that our team has been calling and visiting professors’ offices. We have been determined to get through all of the 55 faculty interviews, and we still have half the quarter left to do it. We needed to regroup and make sure we managed to schedule times in, so we compiled a list of who still needed to be contacted and made plans to drop by offices, in hopes of catching them in the upcoming weeks. Our original plan of a final database is still a possibility, but getting through our interviews is the main priority. With this in mind, we began brainstorming ideas for what we would recommend to next year’s Grand Challenge team. This consisted of forming focus groups of the Grand Challenge professors and applying their research, finishing the database, identifying projects or other potential collaborators for the professors, and working with Nurit Katz to help professors pilot their research through living labs.

Last week, we had an interview with Professor Bruce Dunn, from Materials Science and Engineering, bringing the total count up to 24. His work focuses on the materials for improving the energy density of batteries and capacitors. The materials his group has been primarily working with are oxides because of their stability and abundance in the earth’s crust. Improving energy storage capacities brings forth a plethora of improvements in renewables, like solar, and transportation. The grid is in need of better energy storage in order to take on more solar power, so his lab spends time developing and testing materials that optimize performance.

When speaking of a recent project, he brought up his collaboration with Professor Yang Yang, also in materials science. Their proposal was to make photovoltaics into thin sheets that are able to be rolled up and incorporated in building materials. Dr. Dunn explained that these thin sheet rolls could possibly be used to build awnings and line curtains, providing shade while also having a functional purpose of harvesting solar energy. Ultimately, it comes down to improving energy density in order to compact the technology, a common theme among the professors we spoke with. 

Professor Bruce Dunn in his office.

Professor Bruce Dunn in his office.