Designing More Efficient Electronics
Rodrigo Noriega, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, uses ultrafast laser pulses and his interdisciplinary training to tackle tough problems in energy science.
“My scientific interests are at the intersections of chemistry, physics, materials science, and biology – which requires a variety of complementary tools,” says Noriega.
Noriega came to Utah to study materials for energy generation, conversion, and storage. His lab develops experiments that push the limits of sensitivity, spatial, and temporal resolution to observe structural rearrangements and charge transfer at the molecular scale.
“I aim to connect structure and function in complex macromolecules such as semiconducting polymers – which are plastic electronic materials – and in biological polymers, like proteins,” says Noriega. His lab studies charge transport in semiconducting polymers, structural rearrangements in enzymes, and electrochemical charge transfer at interfaces.
Polymers are molecules made of many repeating units. Familiar polymers include plastics like polyethylene or polystyrene. Semiconducting polymers are plastics that transport electrical charge. Such large molecules are flexible and have variable molecular conformations – a key reason for a lack of uniformity, or disorder, in their properties.
“I’m investigating materials where heterogeneity plays an important role. Disorder resilience is something that nature does well, but manmade materials do not. I want to understand how to design disorder-resilient materials,” says Noriega.
“If we understand the relationship between form and function, we can design polymers with better electrical properties and therefore more efficient electronic devices. We can also learn more about why some enzymes are extremely selective while others are less selective.”
In addition to research, Noriega teaches several key courses at the U including the Advanced Physical Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 5720) and Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (CHEM 7000). His teaching reflects his scientific vision. “I aim to give students a combination of fundamental concepts, data analysis tools, and lab experience.”