Research

  • All Engineering Physics students are encouraged to partake in the exciting research that contributes to Stanford’s reputation. There are many options:

Undergraduate Research Options

Exciting EPhys research:

Because Engineering Physics offers such an extensive, broad engineering background that is rooted in the physics that underlies all physical processes, students are capable of performing research in incredible variety of disciplines:

Photovoltaics

  • Dye Sensitized Solar Cells
    • John Melas-Kyriazi’s (B.S. ’11) honors thesis abstract from the McGehee lab: Photovoltaic (solar) cells are a clean energy technology that will play a strong role in helping the world tackle the twin issues of rising global energy use and climate change from the burning of fossil fuels. Solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells (ss-DSCs) have great potential for cheap electricity generation, but currently suffer from severe performance limitations. The fabrication of ss-DSCs involves infiltrating an organic conductor from the solution phase into a porous semiconductor whose surface is covered by dye molecules. This “pore filling” infiltration process is known to be problematic, and a significant portion of the space inside the porous semiconductor is still empty after deposition. This work systematically characterizes the impact of the pore filling fraction (PFF) — or percent volume of pore space filled with organic conductor — on device performance. We show how the PFF affects the physical processes of electron-hole recombination, charge transport, and charge transfer from the dye. Our simulations suggest that improving the PFF from its current maximum of 65% all the way to 100% could yield up to 25% higher relative efficiency for ss-DSCs.
  • Organic Photovoltaics and Electronics
    • In Alberto Salleo’s Materials Science laboratory, Isaac Kauvar (B.S. ’12) studied charge transport in thin film polymer devices. He explored anisotropy of charge transport as predicted by the crystal structure. Applications include flexible, thin film, solution processable displays, circuitry, and photovoltaics. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, he studied the consequences of charge transfer rate on the stability of organic photovoltaics. He discovered a correlation between longer device lifetime and faster rate of charge transfer between the electron donor and acceptor in polymer:fullerene bulk heterojunction solar cells.

Plasma Physics

  • Ion Thrusters
    • Seth Winger (B.S. ’11) worked in the Stanford Plasma Physics Laboratory under Professor Mark Cappelli in the Mechanical Engineering department.  He designed and constructed a custom Hall effect ion thruster, with applications in space propulsion and orbit keeping.  After assembling the thruster, he tested it in the lab’s vacuum chamber and ran diagnostic tests to characterize its performance.
Test of the nitrogen-fed Hall effect ion thruster. Photograph by Andrew Smith.

Neuroscience

  • Optogenetics
    • In addition to his work on organic photovoltaics, Isaac Kauvar works in the Deisseroth laboratory, using genetically targeted light-sensitive ion channels in conjunction with fluorescent calcium indicators to  study how the brain processes information. Using these two tools he can control the electrical input to a subset of neurons and record the output from a different subset of neurons – with the goal of deciphering the brain’s extraordinarily complex network.

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