Chemist Earns Cottrell College Science Award

Jeff Peterson (left) discusses details of his nanotechnology project with undergraduate research assistant Charlie Oster, a senior chemistry major from Hilton, N.Y.

GENESEO, N.Y. - Jeff Peterson, assistant professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Geneseo, has received a Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, one of the oldest foundations in the country devoted to the advancement of science.

The $35,000 award will support his research in the area of materials chemistry related to nanotechnology, the manipulation of materials at the atomic or molecular level. The funding will provide for the purchase of equipment and supplies and summer support for an undergraduate research assistant.

"Specifically, I'm looking at materials called ‘semiconductor quantum dots' (QDs) that emit and absorb light in totally unique ways compared to traditional molecular dyes," said Peterson. "QDs have potential use in various technological applications such as solar cells, lasers, biological imaging, and quantum cryptography. One current limitation of QDs is that they go through random periods of time during which they don't emit light and the ‘nanoscience' community is not sure why. I've proposed a new way to investigate the most popular traditional explanation, which has never been directly tested."

Peterson said he will measure the charge and emitted light from an individual QD using techniques borrowed from biochemistry and chemical physics.

"The work will provide new insights into the fundamental physics that describe how QDs emit light and potentially improve their usefulness in future technologies," said Peterson.

The project period is from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2012.

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