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Renewable Energy

Applied and Engineering Physics faculty play an active role in the leadership and implementation of renewable energy research on campus, both through individual research programs, the collaborative centers on campus, and at partnering national laboratories. The department’s interests in the physics of renewable energy range from world-leading fundamental studies intended to understand the underlying mechanisms and ultimate limits of new technologies to applied research that ensures their practical and efficient implementation.

For example, semiconductor nanocrystals offer significant potential for efficient, solution-processed (i.e., low cost) photovoltaic devices. The optical properties of nanocrystals can be engineered through their size via quantum confinement effects. They can be tailored to absorb the solar spectrum optimally, for example, and the absorption of a single photon of light may create more than one pair of charge carriers in a nanocrystal. In collaboration with Prof. Tobias Hanrath of Chemical Engineering, Frank Wise is investigating the fundamentals of charge transfer from nanocrystals. The Hanrath-Wise team has demonstrated nanocrystal-based solar cells with among the highest efficiencies reported.

Cornell's Energy Materials Center (EMC2), funded by the Department of Energy, focuses on understanding and controlling the nature, structure, and dynamics of reactions at electrodes in fuel cells, batteries, supercapacitors, solar photovoltaics, and catalysts. Joel Brock and David Muller lead the thrust on “Atomically-engineered materials for energy generation, conversion, and storage via complex oxides.” The thrust seeks to design, fabricate and characterize, atom-by-atom, new artificial materials that have no bulk counterparts and whose properties can be tailored to meet the competing demands of energy applications. Craig Fennie’s group uses quantum-mechanical theory and computation to invent and predict the properties of new materials system that can be grown by the group. The thrust is also developing and applying novel experimental tools for probing the dynamics and kinetics of structure and chemistry at interfaces, in films and in working devices. An ultimate goal is to establish opportunities for – and fundamental limitations of – energy generation, conversion and storage technologies.

Faculty research interests in this area:

Joel Brock
in-situ x-ray studies of renewable energy materials 

Harold Craighead

Craig Fennie
theoretical prediction and design of new materials and states for energy conversion 

Jeffrey Moses
Ultrafast dynamics in photovoltaics

David Muller
atomic-scale physics, characterization and design of fuel cells, batteries and renewable energy materials 

Frank Wise
quantum dot solar cells 

Lena Fitting Kourkoutis

Francis DiSalvo
fuel cells, batteries 

Emmanuel Giannelis
nanomembranes ionic liquids for fuel cells, batteries, water purification 

Tobias Hanrath
batteries and quantum dot photovoltaics 

Richard Robinson
nanoscale thermoelectrics   


The need for future renewable sources of energy and ways to minimize consumption is leading to a growing emphasis on new concepts for the generation, storage, and transportation of energy. Cornell faculty are involved in developing a wide range of energy-related materials, such as photovoltaic materials, thermoelectrics, advanced battery materials, and catalysts, membranes and supports for mobile fuel cells. Research is also conducted on materials processing that minimizes environmental impact.

Research Area Faculty

  Name Department Contact
de54.jpg Erickson, David Carl
Associate Professor
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 240 Upson Hall
607 255-4861
epg2.jpg Giannelis, Emmanuel P.
Walter R. Read Professor of Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering 176 KAUST Thurston
607 255-9680
lf56.jpg Kourkoutis, Lena F.
Assistant Professor and Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow
Applied and Engineering Physics 235 Clark Hall
607 255-9121
brk2.jpg Kusse, Bruce Raymond
Applied and Engineering Physics 206 Clark Hall
607 255-6252
jam262.jpg Moses, Jeffrey
Assistant Professor
Applied and Engineering Physics 223 Clark Hall
607 255-6704
dm24.jpg Muller, David Anthony
Professor and Director of Master of Engineering and Master of Science Programs
Applied and Engineering Physics 274 Clark Hall
607 255-4065
rdr82.jpg Robinson, Richard Douglas
Assistant Professor
Materials Science and Engineering 127 Bard Hall
607 255-7750
ds636.jpg Schlom, Darrell
Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Industrial Chemistry
Materials Science and Engineering 230 Bard Hall
607 255-6504
rbv2.jpg Van Dover, Robert B.
Materials Science and Engineering Room 312 Bard Hall
607 255-3228