Nanotechnology is vital to the maintenance of a sustainable environment for future generations. Our diverse teams are meeting the grand challenges of today and anticipating problems before they arise. Aligned with the UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, CNSI members have taken lead positions in the development of more efficient, cost-effective nanomaterials and devices that generate, store, and conserve energy as well as strategies to remediate emissions from industrial processes and pollutants in the air, water and land.
Tremendous advances in solar energy harvesting have been enabled by the recent development of cost-effective photovoltaics. Teams of CNSI researchers are producing high-performance photovoltaic devices with world record power conversion efficiencies through the design, synthesis and crystallographic engineering of new materials, including using polymers and hybrid perovskites. The Nano Renewable Energy Center at CNSI, led by Yang Yang, has taken a world-leading role in elucidating the design principles for next-generation energy solutions that will undoubtedly make solar energy a sustainable energy resource for the future.
Nano Environmental Health + Safety
Efforts to ensure the responsible and safe implementation of nanotechnology in the environment at CNSI are led by the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEIN) through the development of environmental decision making tools that consider the importance of engineered nanomaterial physicochemical properties in determining environmental fate, transport, exposure, and hazard generation across a wide spectrum of nano/bio interfaces in cells, bacteria, organisms, communities and ecosystems.
Harvesting power from sustainable sources is only part of the renewable energy equation. Of equal importance is our ability to store energy for on-demand use. Through a research program focused on electrochemical materials and devices, CNSI scientists like Ric Kaner and Bruce Dunn are leading teams developing novel energy storage devices. Supercapacitors are an exciting class of materials that combines the energy density of batteries with the power density and rapid charge/discharge rates of traditional capacitors. Similarly, advances in the production of three-dimensional batteries provides a means to overcome the low energy density limitations of traditional batteries.
Satisfying the world’s need for clean water for drinking, irrigation, and recreational use is an emerging challenge for our world and removing pollutants from water can be very costly and time-consuming. Recent efforts to leverage the enzymatic activities of naturally occurring bacteria and fungi, which break down pollutants into their harmless chemical components, risks releasing dangerous organisms into the water. An interdisciplinary team at CNSI led by Dr. Shaily Mahendra and Dr. Leonard Rome has discovered a new approach to water purification that uses enzymes encased in vault nanoparticles. This technique is cost-effective, energy-efficient and able to simultaneously remove multiple pollutants while minimizing risks to public health and the environment.
The search for ways to reduce CO2 emissions is a grand challenge of our time. Gaurav Sant leads an effort to make industrial pollution part of the solution by developing a sustainable, carbon dioxide-neutral concrete for infrastructure construction applications. CO2NCRETE, which doesn’t release carbon dioxide but rather uses the types of carbon released by power plant smokestacks, aims to rationalize the use of natural resources in construction, promote environmental protection and to advance the cause of ecological responsibility in the concrete construction industry.
Research News – Renewable Energy
In UCLA-led study, perovskite-based devices benefit from the strong bond between lead and the same chemical found in coffee and tea. April 25, 2018 | Solar cells (like people!) work better with caffeine In UCLA-led study, perovskite-based devices benefit from the...
UCLA researchers and colleagues have designed a new device that creates electricity from falling snow. The first of its kind, this device is inexpensive, small, thin and flexible like a sheet of plastic. Best in snow: New scientific device creates electricity from...
September 21, 2018 | Mobile device developed at UCLA could make it easier to predict and control harmful algal blooms
In the past 10 years, harmful algal blooms — sudden increases in the population of algae, typically in coastal regions and freshwater systems — have become a more serious problem for marine life throughout the U.S. The blooms are made up of phytoplankton, which...
August 30, 2018 | Dual-layer solar cell developed at UCLA sets record for efficiently generating power
Materials scientists from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have developed a highly efficient thin-film solar cell that generates more energy from sunlight than typical solar panels, thanks to its double-layer design. Aug 30, 2018 | Dual-layer solar cell...
November 20, 2017 | Hydrogen cars for the masses one step closer to reality, thanks to UCLA invention
UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. November 20, 2017 | Hydrogen cars for the...
August 4, 2017 | UCLA launches program to train students on sustainable food, energy and water management
By 2030, roughly 60 percent of the world’s inhabitants will live in cities, up from just 34 percent in 1960. As a result of that population shift, much larger amounts of food, energy and water will need to be transported into urban centers, often from far away,...