Physics Honors Colloquium - Solar Energy Storage, Thermoelectric Energy Conversion, and Pollution Remediation using Nanoscale Materials and Devices


Fri, 08 Apr 2022, 03:00 pm - 04:00 pm
Spring 2022
Stephen B. Cronin
University of Southern California


Our research spans a broad range of topics from photocatalysis for solar energy storage (i.e., solar fuels) to thermoelectric energy conversion (i.e., waste heat recovery), and more recently pollution remediation and pollution control devices for treating diesel engine exhaust (i.e., NOx, SOx, and particulate matter (i.e., soot)). I will report our latest results in these research areas with an emphasis on how nanostructured materials and devices can be used to provide new alternative approaches to these age-old problems. For thermoelectric energy conversion, we use 2D layered materials, which have ultra-low thermal conductivity and exhibit charge density waves (CDW) transitions to improve thermoelectric performance. For photocatalysis, we use a plasmon resonant nanostructures to couple light from the far-field to the near-field and promote the injection of hot electrons at the electrode surface. These plasmonic nanostructures provide surface-sensitive spectroscopy of molecules and ions at these electrode surfaces, which can be collected in situ under work electrochemical conditions for both water splitting and CO2 reduction reactions. Lastly, we use nanosecond high voltage pulses to create a transient plasma for pollution remediation. New strategies for producing enhancement in this plasma generation and utilization using metal nanoparticles will be discussed.

Bio: Stephen B. Cronin received his B.S. in physics from NYU and PhD in physics from MIT in 2002 under supervision of Professor Mildred Dresselhaus followed by post-Doctoral research in Professor Michael Tinkham’s lab at Harvard University. Professor Cronin carried out his post-Doctoral research on the topic of single molecule spectroscopy and electron transport of carbon nanotubes in Professor Michael Tinkham’s lab at Harvard University. Professor Cronin joined the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering-Electrophysics at the University of Southern California in August 2005 and has earned several awards for his research accomplishments, including the NSF CAREER Award in 2009, the AFOSR Young Investigator Award in 2008, the Charles Lee Powell Foundation Research Award in 2006, and the James H. Zumberge Research and Innovation Award. Professor Cronin is also an active member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Association of Advancement of Science, American Physical Society and Materials Research Society.