Sarah Geegan

By

College: Arts and Sciences

UK Chemistry Alumni Set World Record in Realm of Energy Efficiency

Published: Oct 4, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 4, 2012) — In a year that University of Kentucky teams have captured national titles, two UK alumni were part of another team that gained a world-record title — one that has the potential to impact everyone.  

 

UK alumni Joe Bullock and Kathy Woody are synthetic chemists at Phillips 66, a Houston-based company that manufactures energy products. Their team recently attained the world record for the most efficient polymer-based solar cells.

 

Increasing the efficiency of these organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells could have enormous implications for the energy industry. Currently, solar panels consist of photo cells based on the element silicon, which convert light energy to electrical energy. These silicon panels are costly, fragile and expensive in large amounts. However, organic panels, such as the ones Bullock and Woody helped develop, are produced using plastics and are less expensive, flexible and tougher.

 

"Using inorganic semi-conductors like silicon, which makes materials expensive and difficult to process in large quantities, is why solar cells are still very expensive compared to traditional grid power," Bullock said. "So we are investigating the next step. We hope to take plastics instead of silicon, and implement the cells into affordable, light-weight materials that could be as flexible as a grocery bag."

 

Bullock said these materials could be ideally fabricated in a manner similar to a printing press or newspaper printing reel bound to thin plastic. Large scale manufacturing would bring down cost.

 

"The flexibility of plastics provides so many more application opportunities," Bullock said. "The panels could be put on window blinds and rolled up. They could also be portable — integrated into tents or umbrellas, for camping applications. For example, using this technology, a tent could absorb sunlight and generate power in remote locations."

 

While the previous efficiency record for OPV cells was 9.1 percent, the team's new record stands at 9.3 percent. The current market silicon-based cells boast an efficiency percentage of 15, so the team still has progress to make, but Woody said she is confident the team will continue to enhance the cells' efficiency.

 

"We are thrilled by the results, but we don't consider them a stopping point," Woody said. "We have our sights on a much higher goal to develop something that can be a good quality commercial product."

 

Bullock and Woody graduated from UK with chemistry degrees in 2004 and 2005, respectively. They attended different graduate schools — Bullock, Northwestern University and Woody, Georgia Institute of Technology — before both took jobs at Phillips 66 in 2011. They did not realize they would be collaborating on the same team until a few weeks before their work began.

 

"When I showed up my first day of work, they said 'by the way, we have hired another person you must know because you published a paper together,'" Woody said. "We had worked together throughout our undergraduate research, so that was really exciting to already know someone that I was going to work with, and to know that while we were in different graduate schools, we had similar backgrounds and complemented each other."

 

Both Bullock and Woody credit their undergraduate research experiences at UK as instrumental to their current success. Bullock began his research in chemistry professor John Anthony's lab the summer after his freshman year, then additionally began working in chemistry professor Mark Watson's lab, where Woody worked as well.

 

"Conducting research was an eye-opening experience," Woody said. "It allowed me to identify things I enjoyed, then prepared me for the field. Working with Dr. Watson, I conducted independent research throughout my last two years at UK, and this resulted in three publications (in prestigious scientific journals) that helped jumpstart my career. It also gave me good preparation for graduate school and equipped me to start working and researching right away."

 

Bullock said that being able to begin his research so early in college solidified his interest in organic systems and equipped him to stay on the research path. He  was coauthor of one of Woody’s publications from the Watson lab, as well as two others resulting from his research in the Anthony labs.

 

Watson said that, looking back on his own career path, the most important influences came from undergraduate research and committed research mentors.

 

"Students generally don’t choose an academic major in the sciences unless they already have some interest," Watson said. "However, hands-on undergraduate research can really light the fire that propels them forward over the hurdles and into a meaningful career of solving problems. I think all of us here at UK delight in fostering an environment where budding researchers catch that fire and run with it. We can’t imagine a greater reward than watching former students excel, and Kathy and Joe are prime examples." 

 

Woody said that she is very thankful for her relationship with Watson, whom she utilized as a mentor throughout graduate school and throughout her work at Phillips 66. She is confident that her strong preparation will continue to pay dividends as the team strives to reach even greater levels of efficiency for OPV cells.

 

"My time at UK was really pivotal for putting me on my career path," Bullock said. "We’re obviously thrilled to have broken the new world record, and I'm enthusiastic about our work moving forward."

 

For more information, click here.

 

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365; sarah.geegan@uky.edu

phillips1.jpgworld-record-holders.jpgbullock.jpgphillips2.jpgphillips3.jpg
November
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
College of Pharmacy Open House
Iron Pour
UK Women's Choir 20th Anniversary Concert
Adventure Hiking & Rappelling @ Red River Gorge
Pickin' Time Mountain Music and Harvest Day
Purposeful Retirement: Planning Your Next Stage of Life
Diwali Dhoom 2014
Sat
2
UK Percussion Ensemble
Day Hike
Curator Tour: Take My Word For It
Sun
3
Industry Career Week: Resumes and Cover Letters
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Morehead State
Mon
4
Industry Career Week: How to Impress Your Boss in 90 Days
Rock Star Professionalism Series
UK Lab Band
Tue
5
Industry Career Week: Networking and Job Search
Social Enterprise and Innovation / Certified Nonprofit Professional Program Informational Meeting
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Appalachian Forum with Dr. Fran Ansley
Dana Harper Gallery Reception
Wed
6
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Zona Sur
LNFS Presents: The Grand Budapest Hotel
UK Jazz Ensemble
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Abstract Workshop
Lauren Potter
Thu
7
LNFS Presents: V for Vendetta
Last Day to Withdraw or Reduce Course Load
Circle of Love Name Distribution
R.C. May Photography Lecture Series: Marvin Heiferman
Men's Soccer vs. Charlotte
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Georgia
Free Friday Evening Swing Dance
Fri
8
Kentucky Football vs. Georgia
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
The Power of Poetry
The Lexington Lowdown and Free Lindy Hop Workshop
Swing Dance Featuring Live music by"The Metrognomes Orchestra"
Sat
9
UK Combos Concert
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Missouri
Sun
10
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Mon
11
UK Sax Ensembles
Job Club - Interviewing Strategies
Undergraduate Research Information Session
Jose Abisambra Presentation on Current Alzheimer's Research
Women of the World: Judy Smith
Tue
12
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Reservoir Dogs
Refugee Life in America
#UKEDTALKS: International Opportunities for Education Majors
Leadership Assessment
Wed
13
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Iron Man 3
Chili and Pie Cook-Off Supper
#TrendingTopics: Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters
Campus Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics KY
LNFS Presents: La Demora
Thu
14
LNFS Presents: Pretty in Pink
LNFS Presents: Mean Girls
Fri
15
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
16
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Florida
Greek Cinematography: Critical Approach and Discussion
"Storied Streets" Documentary Showing about Experiences of Homelessness
Sun
17
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
UK Rep Bands Concert
College of Agriculture, Food & Environment 2014 Celebration of Land-Grant Research
Amanda Rogers, "Black Flags, ISIS 'Swag' & Jihadi Rap: Marketing Militancy after the Arab Spring"
Stories of Homelessness: Panel Discussion
Mon
18
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
A Positive Approach to Caregiving Conference
Education Abroad Open House
CatWatch Party
Appalachian Forum and Film Screening of "Up the Ridge"
Tue
19
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
LNFS Presents: The Princess and the Frog
Pinterest Party
International Games Day
Global Design with Phil Duncan
Caregiver Support Group
OXFAM Social Issues Banquet
Wed
20
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You
LNFS Presents: The Big Lebowski
International Education Week Keynote Speaker: Christie Vilsack, Senior Advisor for International Education at USAID
Tobacco-free Tailgate 5 Year Anniversary
Bollywood Night
Thu
21
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: Water For Elephants
4th Annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging & Dementia
Freedom from Fear: On Black Childhood and Other Dangers
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
MEAT.
Fri
22
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
23
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
UK Symphony Band and UK Concert Band
Sun
24
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Mon
25
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Job Club - What is your money habitude?
Multicultural Student Thanksgiving Dinner
Tue
26
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Wed
27
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Thu
28
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Fri
29
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Arkansas
Sat
30
 
Sun
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mon, 11/24/2014

Wed, 11/26/2014 - Sat, 11/29/2014

Reset Page