Dr. Jennifer Aitken, associate professor of chemistry, knows semiconductors at their atomic level. Her studies of semiconductor compounds used in everything from solar cells to imaging equipment examine exactly how atoms are arranged.
“I can use X-ray diffraction to see where the atoms actually are located in a structure,” Aitken said. “You’re looking at something nobody has looked at before.”
Semiconductors, which essentially replaced the once-ubiquitous vacuum tube, can be formed from many different combinations, which create new materials.
Once Aitken has established a new compound, creativity meets science. “You can be working with known materials and can substitute other substances to maximize the properties you want,” said Aitken, who has been surprised by some of her discoveries.
“I initially thought what I was introducing would have interesting magnetic properties—but it didn’t,” said Aitken, who works with compounds of copper indium selenide. “It turned out to be even more interesting. I improved the thermoelectric properties and performance by just putting a little manganese into the structure.”
Aitken’s research doesn’t stop with chemical wizardry. “I have to ask, ‘Why did this happen? Why didn’t I get the magnetic properties I was hoping for? Where is the magnesium even appearing in the crystal lattice? If we can understand this, it’s a concept that can be used with other related materials to improve their properties, too.”
The scientific discovery possible through this project—Optical, Electrical and Magnetic Properties of Multi-Cation Diamond-Like Semiconductors: Intricate Semiconductor Systems for Physical Property Tuning—is only one of Aitken’s goals. Aitken, who initiated Duquesne’s award-winning Project SEED program, has made a point to provide graduate and undergraduate students, even high schoolers, opportunities to contribute.
“It’s important that we’re educating the next generation of scientists,” Aitken said.
“In addition to her cutting-edge research in developing novel semiconductors, Dr. Aitken’s extraordinary ability to mentor undergraduate and graduate students in their research has had a profound effect upon the quality of our chemistry program in the Bayer School,” said Dean David Seybert.
Grants Received [July 1, 2015]
Funds totaling $402,034 were awarded to the Gumberg Library, the School of Nursing, the Mylan School of Pharmacy, the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Law.
Faculty & Staff Spotlight [July 1, 2015]
What have Drs. Janet Astle and Laurel Willingham-McLain been up to?
DU in the News [June 2015]
News coverage highlighting Duquesne’s experts and initiatives.
- Grants Received [July 1, 2015]
New Crowdfunding, Urban Plunge Initiatives Boost Cross-Cultural Missions
While Spring Break provides an opportunity for students to vacation or stay home for relaxation, 65 Duquesne students and staff will take this time to embark on Cross-Cultural Mission Experiences (CCME) that will impact six different areas in the country.
- New Crowdfunding, Urban Plunge Initiatives Boost Cross-Cultural Missions