Chemical engineering awarded National Science Foundation grant
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Ever wonder where the school gets all of its money? Aside from tuition and alumni donations, a large portion comes from UNH’s academic departments that make substantial advances in research, which is important and significant enough to attract the attention of government agencies or corporations. The process behind applying for research funding is known as grant proposal writing, and it can be a very difficult and competitive process.
Recently, in the chemical engineering department, professor Dale Barkey and assistant professor Xiaowei Teng — with some help from Conductive Compounds, Inc., a Hudson based firm — were able to secure a large National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $450,000 to continue their work on increasing the cost-effectiveness of solar panels.
Developing a new kind of silver “ink” to line the panels could have lasting impact in the renewable energy industry. Silver nanoparticles have surprisingly different properties than the plain silver powder that is currently used in solar panel production. Silver nanoparticles melt at a lower temperature and are even more conductive to the passage of currents. The lower melting point will lower production energy costs while the increased conductivity will result in a more efficient product.
“Professor Teng and I wrote the proposal with some input from the company,” Barkey said. “The success rate on these grants is around 10 percent. So, yes we were very happy to get the award on the first try.”
Receiving a grant is typically just the beginning. The next step is to develop a product. Research is very expensive, since the costs of purchasing and maintaining the equipment, plus the hiring of researchers and assistants, quickly add up.
“We have already begun to hire undergraduate students to work in the lab on this project. The grant provides funds for this purpose,” Barkey said. He added that there is strong potential for more good news in the future.
“Should a viable technology be developed on campus, UNH would hold the patent rights and the company would pay UNH for the right to use and market the technology,” he said.