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Kittilstved Receives NSF CAREER Award to Study Quantum Dot Analogs

Kevin Kittilstved

Assistant professor of chemistry, Kevin Kittilstved, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his project entitled “Structural and Functional Mimics of Colloidal Quantum Dot Surfaces.” The 5-year, $650,000 award aims to advance our understanding of the chemistry that takes place on the surfaces of semiconductors with nanometer-scale dimensions.

He explains, “these semiconductor nanocrystals, also known as quantum dots, possess very unique absorption and emission properties that make them attractive for various lighting and display technologies. Recently, these quantum dots have been introduced into consumer products such as the red and green emitting phosphors in the screens of the Amazon Kindle FireHD and some LED-TVs.”

“In order to utilize these quantum dots for long-term applications or in spin-based technologies such as data storage, we need to be able to introduce chemical defects or impurities in a precise manner in order to alter the quantum dot properties in a reproducible and predictable way. However, the process of introducing impurities into these quantum dots is not well understood. This CAREER award will allow us to study the mechanism of impurity incorporation into a class of molecular clusters with well-defined composition that mimic the structure and function of the growing surface of a quantum dot.”

He believes that this work will enable a more rational design of precision-doped quantum dots for various spin-based technologies with inherent long-term stability.

In addition to funding graduate students to carry out this work, Kittilstved will also partner with the State-funded STEM Starter Academy at Springfield Technical Community College to bring students to the UMass campus to live and work on the project over the summer. “There are few genuine research opportunities for community college students,” explains Kittilstved. “I’m excited and optimistic that this summer research program will have positive impacts on these students as they continue their STEM training and transition to a 4-year University.”

Kittilstved joined the Department of Chemistry at UMass Amherst in 2011 from the University of Washington, where he was a postdoctoral fellow. He also earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Washington in 2006 after obtaining his B.S. in Chemistry at Gonzaga University in his hometown of Spokane, WA. Following his Ph.D. he spent 3 years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Université de Genève in Switzerland. 

(July 2015)