About 10,000 times narrower than a human hair, carbon nanotubes are stronger than steel, while also possessing very unusual electronic properties. These unique characteristics and the potential applications that spring from them have transformed the work of many researchers, including Svetlana Vasilyeva.
“I remember my first chemistry lesson and thought it was so close to magic,” she said. “It still feels like it sometimes. Research and development of real–life applications is my favorite part of the job.”
Vasilyeva’s research has contributed to the launch and success of two University of Florida spinoff companies in Gainesville: nVerpix and nHydrogen.
She serves as chief research chemist for nVerpix, which has developed a groundbreaking carbon nanotube-enabled organic light-emitting transistor technology. A new pixel design promises to reduce device complexity, simplify manufacturing and increase emitter lifetime, powering bright and beautiful displays with low energy consumption.
“The nVerpix team was invited to the Innovation Zone section of the Society for Information Display Week 2016 and won the Best Prototype Award,” said Vasilyeva. “This is a big step for us because manufacturers are beginning to realize that this is a viable technology that solves their problems.”
Vasilyeva is also making strides with nHydrogen, where she’s the chief technical officer.
“The goal is to eliminate the precious metals as catalysts in proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers and fuel cells,” she explained. “This is a major problem for large-scale implementation of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave energy.”
nHydrogen’s technology will collect excess energy from solar panels, for example, convert and store it as hydrogen fuel for use when the sun isn’t shining. Carbon nanotubes and select graphitic carbons would replace much more expensive and scarce materials, such as platinum, that are currently used. According to Vasilyeva, replacing precious metals with carbon nanotubes would result in significant cost savings for manufacturers.
The daughter of a nuclear physicist and chemical engineer, Vasilyeva was destined to be a scientist. As she continues advancing research for both companies, the chemist is in her element.
“I’m really fortunate to work at the University of Florida,” said Vasilyeva, a member of the research group led by Andrew Rinzler, professor in the department of physics. “I work with a team of exceptional scientists and engineers. This is a unique, collaborative environment that transforms potential ideas and inventions into actual results.”