The ultrasmall holds huge possibilities for the future if you ask Julia E. Medvedeva, assistant professor of physics.
Medvedeva is examining optical transparency and electrical conductivity to find out how atoms are put together on the microscopic level. Such in-depth understanding of underlying physical phenomena allows her to design new materials with properties required for a particular application.
Medvedeva is interested in a unique class of materials called transparent conductors, which share the seemingly contradictory properties of being optically transparent, like glass, and electrically conductive, like metal. Transparent conductors are vital components in many devices, including solar cells, smart windows, flat-panel and flexible displays, invisible, or “see-through,” electronics, and gas sensors.
With financial support from the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society, Medvedeva is working to develop new transparent conductor materials that are more efficient, easier to fabricate, less expensive and environmentally friendly. Her preliminary research shows that with proper preparation calcium, aluminum or silicone oxides, the most abundant substances in the earth’s crust, can be made electrically conductive while maintaining their superior optical properties.