Trapping Light for Organic Solar: YCEI Speakers Series Kicks Off

by Eric Ellman

A physicist from sunny Barcelona who traps and bends light and a Yale engineering professor who makes atom-thin solar cells from carbon have teamed up to channel the sun’s energy in new ways. Flexible, lightweight and nearly two-dimensional, the materials being developed in the lab of professor Andrè Taylor at Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) could lead to such breakthroughs as solar house paint and self-charging cars. Taylor and YCEI postdoctoral fellow Marina Mariano Juste gave sequential talks the week of October 26 to kick off a speaker series that pairs postdoctoral research associates supported by YCEI with their mentors and colleagues at Yale.

The topics in the series range from history to biology to climate modeling and public health, and reveal synergies that result when promising young scientists from around the world come to Yale to share ideas with faculty, research staff and students. 

Mariano Juste, whose doctoral research led to a patent for a fiber array that redirects light more squarely onto the active layer of traditional silicon-based cells, brings that expertise to the miniature world of André Taylor, whose laboratory in SEAS designs and assembles nanometer-thin materials for energy conversion and storage. In the opening talk of the series on Monday afternoon, October 26, Mariano Juste described her work on modeling the physics of trapping light in solar-cell devices in order to capture more of its energy for conversion to electricity. In his lunchtime talk on Wednesday, October 28, Taylor spoke about the new types of nanomaterials being designed and fabricated in his laboratory, in collaboration with a research group led by professor Nilay Hazari in the Department of Chemistry — an interdiscriplinary team that got together only a few years ago sparked by a seed grant from YCEI.

In November, medieval and ancient history is examined through the lens of climate change. On Monday, November 16, a talk by YCEI fellow Francis Ludlow will show how entries in monastic chronicles from Medieval Ireland align with volcanic eruptions that triggered cooling, drought, and episodic violence. Ludlow’s findings from this new time marker — which led to re-dating of ice core records from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project and to the identification of dozens of previously overlooked volcanic eruptions that triggered cooling episodes — are re-writing pre-Modern history, says J G Manning, William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Professor of Classics & History at Yale. On Tuesday, November 17, Manning’s lunchtime talk will use Ludlow’s findings to offer a new interpretation of interstate conflicts in Hellenistic Egypt.

In December, the talks shift forward in time. In her Monday afternoon talk on December 7, YCEI fellow ​Marta Jarzyna will speak about the role that statistical analysis is playing in quantitative ecological studies designed to understand how climate change is affecting plants and animals around the world. Marta works with professor Walter Jetz in the Depatment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale. On Tuesday, December 8, former YCEI fellow Adam Rosenblatt presents results on how climate change is altering predator-prey relationships in old-field ecosystems, with surprising consequences for the carbon cycle.  

In January and February, the speakers series segues into the realm of public health. On January 18, YCEI fellow Srinath Krishnan, who works with professor Mark Pagani in the Department of Geology & Geophysics, will show how the outputs of high-resolution climate models can drive epidemiological models for the spread of Lyme disease as New England gets warmer. Professor Robert Dubrow, director of the new Climate Change and Health program at Yale School of Public Health, will follow with a talk on the rising danger of heat stress in a warming world. On February 22, the last talk week of the series, YCEI fellow Kevin Lane will analyze climate action plans that are intended to mitigate the health impacts of the urban heat-island effect, which pushes up temperatures in and around cities. Jesse Berman and Jia Coco Liu, colleagues of Lane in the research laboratory of professor Michelle Bell in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will give the final talk in the series, on how climate change has impacted mortality and hospitalization rates in the Western U.S. as a consequence of increased drought and wildfire.

All talks will be held in Kline Geology Lab, 210 Whitney Avenue, and are open to everyone.

Monday talks are at 4:00 in the auditorium (KGL 123) and are followed by pizza and drinks.

Tuesday talks are at noon in KGL 201, with light lunch served.

YCEI Interdisciplinary Speaker Series. Topics on Climate and Energy

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