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Photovoltaics / Solar Fuels Team

Joshua Spurgeon, PhD, is the Theme Leader for Photovoltaics/Solar Fuels research at the Conn Center and is focused on economically viable approaches to solar fuels, electrosynthetic fuel formation, and novel, low-cost solar cell technologies.

He received his doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2010. He also holds an MS in Chemical Engineering from Caltech (2006) and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of South Carolina (2004). He conducted research on proton exchange membrane fuels cell at the University of South Carolina (2000 – 2004), before pursuing research into scalable and inexpensive nanostructured photovoltaics at Caltech (2004 – 2009). As a post-doctoral scholar at Caltech (2010), he worked on multifunctional membranes for solar fuels applications and demonstrated the viability of solar-driven water vapor electrolysis. He then became a Research Scientist at the inception of the Department of Energy’s solar fuels innovation hub, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP, 2011 – 2013), where his research involved photoelectrochemical studies of the interfaces between catalysts and semiconductors. He became Project Lead for the Interface group and Processing, Materials, and Integration Team at JCAP (2013) before leaving for the Conn Center at the University of Louisville in 2014.

Josh’s research includes the study of novel photoelectrode materials for solar fuels generation, engineering approaches to produce low-cost solar cells matched to specific electrolysis loads, and the design and innovation of novel catalysts and electrolyzer systems for fuel formation through the reduction of carbon dioxide.

Bijandra Kumar, PhD, is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. His current project is focused on improving the efficiency and selectivity of carbon dioxide reduction towards fuel molecules. This effort includes the study of transition metal dichalcogenide electrocatalysts, the effects on the product selectivity due to controlled variation in the applied potential waveform, and the optimization of fuel formation through a cascade catalysis approach. Bijandra began his career at the National Chemical Laboratory, India after earning a degree in physical chemistry. He received his PhD in materials science and engineering from the European University of Brittany, France with specialization in carbon nanotubes and sensors. He has also worked on 2-dimensional nanomaterials (e.g., graphene, phosphorene, and MoS2) at CEA, Grenoble, France and UIC, Chicago, USA as a postdoctoral fellow.

Sudesh Kumari, PhD, is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. Her work involves the development of organometal halide perovskite solar cells, including their stabilization against humidity and their incorporation into multijunction photovoltaic devices. Her research also includes the investigation of hydrogen production through the electrolysis of seawater for marine-based solar fuels applications. Sudesh received her undergraduate degree from Panjab University Chd. in India before completing her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Kentucky in 2014. At UK, she studied electron and ion spectroscopy of metal hydrocarbon complexes.

J. Pat Brian is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering. His research is currently focused on improving hydrocarbon fuel production efficiency and selectivity via carbon dioxide reduction in a multistep, heterogeneous, cascade catalysis system of electrolyzers. This approach allows for optimum efficiency and product selectivity of each individual intermediate reaction on the pathway towards the desired fuel. Pat graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1980 with a BS in Chemical Engineering and also earned Professional Engineer (PE) certification in both Chemical (1985) and Electrical (1988) engineering. He worked in the field of Process Control for 31+ years, and has experience in almost every facet of the Design, Construction, Commissioning, Operation, Maintenance and Troubleshooting of Industrial Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems.

R. Turner White is currently an undergraduate co-op student in the Department of Electrical Engineering. His interests include the development of organometal halide perovskite solar cells, particularly with transparent contact layers suitable for inclusion in a multi-bandgap, multilayered device as well as simulating the ideal performance of such photovoltaics using multiphysics-based computational software. Turner is currently working on his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and intends to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Louisville as well.

Alumni

Elijah Lumppin, Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2014