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Pitt professor Dr. Paul Leu receives prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award

January 26, 2016

PITTSBURGH--Paul W. Leu, PhD, assistant professor of industrial engineering, received the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his work on flexible metals. The CAREER program is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for junior faculty who exemplify outstanding research, teaching, and their integration.

The five-year, $500,000 award will support research into the manipulation of metals at the micro- and nanoscale to develop thin yet flexible crystalline silicon for high efficiency, low cost solar cells. "Although solar cell technology continues to improve, it still relies upon rigid and bulky silicon that limits its range of use," Dr. Leu explained. "Our research is focused on designing new hierarchical metal structures that allow for a thinner, more flexible structures that can adapt to different shapes."

Some of the research will be performed in the Swanson School's Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization Facility (NFCF), part of the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering. The grant will help develop a Google Streetview-like virtual tour of the limited access cleanroom, so web visitors from around the world can see and learn about the facility. Additionally, the grant will enable the development of a new graduate course in Statistical Design of Materials and undergraduate research opportunities through Pitt's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.

"As we investigate multiple length scales within materials and develop new structural models, we see the potential for new metals to pave the way toward to lightweight and adaptive transparent conductors and solar cells," Dr. Leu said. "These structures may also be utilized for flexible sensors, photodetectors, and smart surfaces."

Additional support is provided by the Swanson School's Office of Diversity; Jeremy Levy, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute at Pitt; the Pitt Mobile Science Lab; and the Penn State Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education.
About Dr. Leu

Paul W. Leu joined the Department of Industrial Engineering in August 2010. He received his BS in mechanical engineering at Rice University and his master of science in mechanics of materials and PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He subsequently worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the U.C. Berkeley Electrical Engineering Department as a member of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center and with a joint-appointment in the Materials Division Center of Lawrence Berkeley. Dr. Leu's primary research interests include first principle simulations of material properties, combining physical simulations with optimization methods, and nanomaterial synthesis and characterization. His areas of expertise include nanomaterials, semiconductor processing, computer aided design, multiscale modeling, and semiconductor devices. For more information about Dr. Leu's research visit

University of Pittsburgh

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