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Recent Group Highlights

[See also recent news from group alums!]

In a collaboration led by the DV group, Tim Gehan (joint graduate student with PML and DV group's) was the lead author of a Nano Letters article describing the synthesis of organic polymer and PCBM nanoparticles that were then used as "pre-fab" modules to make bulk heterojunction electroactive layers in organic photovoltaic devices. The article describes the nanoparticle synthesis, incorporation of different electroactive components both as separate nanoparticles and as "blend" nanoparticles, giving the highest power conversion efficiencies to date for this type of fabrication process. The process is primarily water based, which adds a strong factor of ecological friendliness to the work. Tim and postdoctoral associate Monojit Bag are shown to the right, working on evaluation of the nanoparticle based solar cells. The work was announced in a UMass Amherst press release as the article was published, and on 13 August had already been linked from the Department of Energy's Science Headlines website. The work was carried out as part of the PHaSE EFRC, supported by the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

PML visited the Changchun, China region during July 2014, kindly hosted by Prof. (and Dean) Jingping Zhang, a visiting scientist group member during the 1990's. In addition to seeing much natural beauty in the local area, and to seeing Changchun itself (a "modest" sized city of about 8 million!), he gave seminars at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (a Chinese National Academy institution), Jilin University, and Dean Zhang's own Northeast Normal University. He also gave an invited plenary talk at the 15th Annual Normal University Conference on Chemical Education and Technology in Changchun, describing the UMass Amherst chemistry majors' curriculum, the Chemistry Department's teaching responsibilities, and the ways in which different universities approach the challenge of educating modern chemists at the undergraduate level.

At end of July 2014, Rafael Allão Cassaro finished two great years as a postdoctoral visiting scientist with the group, originating from Profa. Maria Vaz' group at Univ Federal Fluminense in Niterói to teach us a lot of great stuff about inorganic EPR and synthesizing metal-radical complexes. His work was supported by CNPq in Brasil, for which he and our group are very grateful, because it gave us the chance to work with a smart and really good scientist. Rafael (with wife Marcia and little Miguel) has returned to Rio de Janeiro to take up his new faculty position at UFRJ in the Chemistry Department. Boa viagem, Rafael! May you have much success at Rio (on the faculty at one of the best universities in Brazil)! Welcome back any time (and of course, people will hope to see you in wonderful Rio)!

Group member Jeff Lucas successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation, Flexible Tethers in Multi-chromophoric Systems: Linking Photophysics with Assembly, on 25 June 2014. At end of month, he set out for Tokyo Electron Corporation in the Albany, NYarea to take up his new research scientist position with the company. Congratulations, Jeff, and have fun making organic electronics and doing plasma etching!

Undergraduate research corps and Commonwealth Honors College member Molly Cocaine successfully defended her B.S. honors thesis, Building Blocks of Molecular Magnetic Materials: Organic Radicals, on 8 May 2014. She found a new, quicker route to make 5-iodo-1,3-bis(iminoylnitroxyl)benzene, an important component of our group's Brazil collaboration. She graduated with honors, and started her new job in the central Massachusetts area with FLEXcon, where she will make good use of her knowledge about organic chemistry for electronic materials as a Development Associate! Good luck and lots of fun, Molly!

Paul Homnick successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation, Molecular Engineering Strategies for the Design and Synthesis of New Organic Photovoltaic Materials, on 27 March 2014. In mid-May, he set out for 3M Corporation in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to take up his new research scientist position with the company. Congratulations, Paul, and much success in your new position!

Group member Timothy Gehan (jointly in the Venkataraman and Lahti groups) was named a recipient of a prestigious Eugene M. Isenberg Award for Spring 2014. He works on assembling organic semiconducting organic polymers into nanoparticles with controlled size and size distribution, as part of the PHaSE Energy Frontier Research Center. Tim's fellowship provides opportunities to work with a private sector mentor to learn how fundamental research in materials chemistry reaches the real world marketplace. Tim also was selected as a speaker at the July 2014 Division of Organic Chemistry Graduate Research Symposium at UCal-Irvine (Paul Homnick was selected for the July 2013 Symposium to two in a row for us)!! Congratulations to Tim for these recognitions of his enthusiastic and superb work as a scientist!

PL presented an invited talk about prospects for future development of organic-only molecule-based magnetic materials at the 5th Workshop on Current Trends in Molecular and Nanoscale Magnetism in sunny, beautiful Larnaca, Cyprus, on 26 May 2014. The workshop was wide ranging and very interactive, involving both young and experienced researchers in the area of magnetic materials and paramagnetic molecules. (The pic shows him at the Kourion site on the south coast of Cyprus.)

The group's Brazilian connection with Profs. Maria G. F. Vaz at Universidade Federal Fluminense and Miguel Novak at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro was highlighted by a recent Chemistry -- A European Journal publication describing the synthesis and magnetostructural characterization of a new type of cobalt(II) single chain magnet (SCM) system with pyrenylnitronylnitroxide. The SCM exhibits a high magnetic coercivity of >30 kOe at 8 K, and a record high blocking temperature of 17 K (as of March 2014). The highly collaborative paper included critical U.S. contributions from group members Dr. Rafael Allao Cassaro and Dr. Handan Akpinar. Click the pic to see the paper.