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
April
 
 
 
1
LNFS Presents: Inherent Vice
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Successful Networking & Job Search
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Brazilian Conversation Hour
The Arboretum presents a Party for the Planet! Celebrate Kentucky's Past
Mr. PharmD Pageant 2015
Wed
2
LNFS Presents: Manakamana
LNFS Presents: Donnie Darko
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
SEC-ACC Virtual Career Fair
Massage on the Go #3
Thu
3
Cultural Coffee Hour
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Fri
4
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Sat
5
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Sun
6
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Age Friendly Community Panel
Resumes & Cover Letters that Work
Mon
7
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Tue
8
LNFS Presents: The Godfather
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Internship Info Session
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Brazilian Conversation Hour
UK Remembers
SpeakBlue: Richard Sherman
Wed
9
LNFS Presents: The Shawshank Redemption
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
From Plows to Plates: A Journey Through Kentucky Foodways
Workshop on Publishing
Teached Documentary
Thu
10
LNFS Presents: Enemy
LNFS Presents: Seven Psychopaths
Cultural Coffee Hour
Last Day to Withdraw or Reduce Course Load
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture: Julian Cox
Fri
11
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
fab-ric-ate Exhibit
Sat
12
Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs
Edward Troye: Theme & Variation
Same Difference: Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh & Russell Maltz
Lexington Tattoo Project
Kentucky's Present - Learn about the Bluegrass region of the Walk Across Kentucky and about invasive plants that threaten Kentucky landscapes
Sun
13
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Get Your DIY On! Fix-It Station Demonstrations
Mon
14
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Job Club - LinkedIn: Your Job Search Best Friend
Tie Dye Tuesday
#UK Kick Butts Day
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 3 p.m.
Take Back the Night Lexington
Tue
15
LNFS Presents: The Godfather: Part II
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 11 a.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ Noon
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Affrilachian Poets
Bike-In Movie: The Bicycle Thieves
Wed
16
LNFS Presents: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
CANCELED: Bike-In Breakfast
Human Rights in China: a panel discussion
Thu
17
LNFS Presents: North by Northwest
LNFS Presents: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Cultural Coffee Hour
Car-Free Day
Performance Conference
Audience Appeals and Performing Assistance Conference
Holi: The Indian Festival of Colors
Fri
18
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Bully Breed Awareness Walk
Spring Carnival 2015
Taste of Africa
GAYla Drag Show and Silent Auction
Sat
19
 
Sun
20
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Floral Sculpture
Pinterest Party #3
Mon
21
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Student Center "Farewell" Informational Fair
Tour de Downtown Art
Tue
22
LNFS Presents: Birdman
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Healthy Smoothie Demonstration
Ping Pong Ball Drop
Shake the Stress Fest
Wed
23
LNFS Presents: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
LNFS Presents: The Avengers
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
Wildcat Wrap-Up
UK Elder Care Lunch & Learn
Kentucky's Future - Plant a Tree in the Pennyrile region of the Walk Across Kentucky
Thu
24
LNFS Presents: Batman
LNFS Presents: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Cultural Coffee Hour
Art in Bloom Weekend
Fri
25
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Network Publishing: Digital Writing in the Humanities
The Party for the Planet final event in April is Arbor Day at The Arboretum!
Art in Bloom Weekend
Raise the Chinese Dream in Kentucky
Art in Bloom Cocktail Party
Sat
26
Art in Bloom Weekend
Sun
27
Resumes & Cover Letters that Work
Wildcat Wellness: Expressions (Creative Stress Relief)
Fuel for Finals
UK Ag Equine Programs Distinguished Lecture Series
Mon
28
Wildcat Wellness: Relaxation
Be PAWsitive!
Job Club: How to Write the Perfect Resume and Cover Letter
Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars
How to Impress Your Boss: Employer Panel
Tue
29
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Internship Info Session
Brazilian Conversation Hour
Appalachian Research Day
Wed
30
Wildcat Wellness: Healthy Habits
Thu
 
 

Repeats every week until Thu Apr 30 2015 except Tue Mar 17 2015.
Tue, 04/28/2015

Tue, 04/28/2015

Reset Page