Saint-Gobain Materials Science Lecture


Saint-Gobain Materials Science Lecture


Harry Atwater

Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, California Institute of Technology

The Lecture will begin at 4pm with wine and cheese reception to follow.

Host: Professor Lawrence Ziegler, Chemistry Chair and MSE Associate Head

Sponsors: Saint-Gobain, Division of Materials Science & Engineering, Boston University

Light as Fuel

Abstract: Research in nanophotonics is opening conceptually new paths to address the grand challenge of using light as a chemical fuel. This is the challenge of direct synthesis of energy-dense chemical fuels from solar energy, including hydrogen and products from reduction of carbon dioxide. I will discuss recent advances in nanophotonics to enable efficient and selective photocatalysis and light-driven photoelectrocatalysis. A second grand challenge for nanophotonics is the use of light as a rocket fuel. This is the challenge of designing light-propelled spacecraft capable of reaching the stars beyond our solar system, since light itself is the only fuel capable of propelling spacecraft to the relativistic speeds needed to achieve interstellar travel. Recently, the Breakthough Starshot initiative has captured scientific imagination and motivated thinking about conceptual prototypes for light-driven spacecraft that could reach nearby stars within a human lifetime. I will describe how this audacious concept may be closer than we imagine, if advances in materials and nanophotonics can enable key concepts for spacecraft propulsion, instrumentation and communications.

Bio: Harry Atwater is currently Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology. Professor Atwater currently serves as Director of the DOE Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. His research interests center around two interwoven research themes: photovoltaics and solar energy, and nanophotonics and plasmonics. He is an early pioneer in surface plasmon photonics; he gave the name to the field of plasmonics in 2001. He has also created new light management principles for solar cells and high efficiency solar cell designs. He is the co-founder of the company Alta Devices, which holds the current world records for solar module efficiency and single junction cell efficiency at one Sun illumination, and which is currently taking high efficiency photovoltaics to manufacturing. His work in the solar and plasmonics field has been featured in Scientific American and in research papers in Science, Nature Materials, Nature Photonics and Advanced Materials. He also serves as Editor in Chief for the journal ACS Photonics, and is Associate Editor for the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics, and in 2006 he founded the Gordon Research Conference on Plasmonics. He is a Fellow of the SPIE, Materials Research Society, American Physical Society and a member of the US National Academy of Engineering.

Brief introduction by Dr. Julia DiCorleto

Director, Saint-Gobain Research North America, Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain: Materials That Power Life

Saint-Gobain Research (SGR) North America is a multi-disciplinary research and development center located in the Greater Boston area. SGR North America develops and interfaces with other R&D centers around the world to help accelerate Saint-Gobain’s business growth by developing materials and solutions which are key ingredients in the wellbeing of each of us and the future of all. Teams at SGR North America work with businesses and customers to solve problems in challenging industrial markets. Combining expertise in materials science, process technologies, and markets, our scientists and engineers use their technical mastery to deliver ceramic, abrasive and high-performance polymer solutions as well as building materials and technical fabrics.

Bio: Julia DiCorleto is the Director of Saint-Gobain’s R&D Center in Northboro, MA. Dr. DiCorleto previously held the position of General Manager of the Tape Solutions Business, a world leader in specialty tapes for bonding, protection and insulation. Dr. DiCorleto began her career in Saint-Gobain in Research & Development. Over the years, she held various positions of increasing responsibility in R&D and business activities. Dr. DiCorleto holds a B.S. in chemical engineering & materials science from the University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT) and a PhD in polymer science/chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA). Prior to her industrial career, Dr. DiCorleto spent two years at the JJ Thomson Physical Laboratory at the University of Reading (Reading, England).


4:00pm on Tuesday, May 7th 2019

End Time



8 Saint Mary's Street, room 906



ENG Home, Photonics, MSE Home, ENG Alumni, Featured Event

Hosting Professor

Professor Lawrence Ziegler, Chemistry Chair & MSE Associate Head