Richard B. Kaner received his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984. After carrying out postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, he joined the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1987 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1991 and became a Full Professor in 1993. Professor Kaner has received awards from the Dreyfus, Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Sloan Foundations, as well as the Exxon Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry and the Buck−Whitney Research Award from the American Chemical Society for his work on refractory materials, including new synthetic routes to ceramics, intercalation compounds, superhard materials, graphene, and conducting polymers.
Professor Kaner holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as well as in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering.
1. Conducting Polymers:
Kaner group is interested in all aspects of conducting polymers, ranging from the fundamental science of these materials to their development for a wide variety of applications. The information provided here is a small glimpse into our research.
Synthesis, Properties, and Processing of Nanostructured Conducting Polymers:
Nanostructured conducting polymers possess many advantageous properties over conventional, bulk counterparts. Since the properties of nanomaterials are highly dependent on their size, shape, and alignment over a macroscopic area, controlling these factors for nanoscale conducting polymers is of great importance. The Kaner group is interested in controlling these parameters without the aid of traditional external templates such as surfactants or nanoporous membranes. This process exploits the fact that conducting polymers have a predisposition to form certain nanoscale shapes under specific synthetic conditions. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a methodology that can produce conducting polymers of virtually any nanoscale size or shape. From this, we can begin to investigate morphology-property relationships and to integrate these new materials into devices.
1. Composite Materials of Conducting Polymers
Conducting polymers can be used as a platform to create polymer/organic or polymer/inorganic composites. These composite materials often exhibit enhanced properties or superior device performance as compared to pure conducting polymers. For example, composite materials of polyaniline/metal nanoparticles can be fabricated by exploiting the simple redox chemistry of polyaniline. The composites are a highly effective material in a wide variety of applications such as chemical sensors, molecular memory, or catalysis.
2. Chemical Sensors
The development of high-performance chemical sensors is receiving increased interest due to its importance in environmental protection and homeland security. We have demonstrated that polyaniline nanofibers exhibit superior sensing performance compared to bulk films, indicating that conducting polymer nanofibers are good candidates for chemical sensing. A systematic investigation into the response of conducting polymer nanofibers to a series of toxic industrial gases and chemical is currently under investigation.
3. Memory Devices and High Density Electronics (in Collaboration with Prof. Yang Yang)
Using the decorated nanofibers as an active layer sandwiched between two aluminum electrodes, we have recently discovered that Au/polyaniline nanofibers possess a remarkable property–electrically switchable bistability, which is ideal for nonvolatile, flash memory devices. The device can be switched from the off- to the on- state at ≥3V with a switching time of ~15 nanoseconds. This produces an abrupt increase in current of more than three orders of magnitude. The device can be switched back to the off-state at ≤-5 V. The device is stable in both states and switching between these two states can be repeated numerous times without any obvious decay. In this project, we will explore the important features of this material and then seek to develop a prototype high-density, high-performance nonvolatile/flash memory circuit.
4. Actuators (in Collaboration with Qeibing Pei)
For decades, engineers who build actuators (motion-generating devices) have sought an artificial equivalent of muscle. Simply by changing their length in response to nerve stimulation, muscles can exert controlled amounts of force sufficient to blink an eyelid or hoist a barbell. During the last fifteen years
The Kaner group has a large research effort in a new and exciting material called graphene. Interest in graphene stems from a number of extraordinary properties including high charge carrier mobility, thermal conductivity, and mechanical strength. These are primarily the result of high symmetry and high crystal quality in graphene’s two-dimensional lattice of sp2 hybridized carbon. Our interests range from new syntheses to graphene-based devices for the next generation of integrated circuits and solar cells.
Solution Processing of Chemically Derived Graphene –
Our group helped to pioneer the first solution-based method for the large-scale production of graphene. Through a process of oxidation and exfoliation of graphite, we are able to create stable dispersions of single sheets that can be reduced back to graphene before deposition. This gives us research access to large graphene flakes without the need for the laborious mechanical exfoliation techniques often employed by other researchers.
6. Transparent Conductors
Optical-electronic devices including LEDs and solar cells have become an important part of reducing power consumption and a reliance on fossil fuels. One of the most challenging part of engineering such devices is the top electrode, which must be both conductive enough to pass current and transparent enough to allow photons in or out of the device. Currently, the industry standard for transparent conductors is indium tin oxide (ITO), which is capable of less than 100 ohms/square at 90% transmittance in the visible range. However, ITO has several limitations that may preclude its widespread use in the near future. These include brittleness and the need for vacuum-based deposition. Graphene may offer a highly scalable and cheap substitute, especially because each layer absorbs just 2.3% of incident light. While this work continues with great intensity, our first efforts yielded graphene-based transparent films with resistivity less than 1000 ohms/square at 90% transmittance.
7. Superhard Materials:
Superhard materials are used in many applications, from cutting and polishing tools to wear-resistant coatings. Diamond remains the hardest known material, despite years of synthetic and theoretical efforts to improve upon it. Designing new superhard materials are not only of great scientific interest, but also could be very useful. The Kaner group in collaboration with the Tolbert group has demonstrated that valence electron density and bond covalency can be used as design parameters for creating superhard, ultra-incompressible materials. Using these design parameters we have synthesized both hard and superhard materials.
8. Thermoelectric materials:
Thermoelectric based devices convert a temperature gradient into power (Seebeck effect) or generate a temperature gradient upon electrical input (Peltier effect). (insert graphic on TE effects). In order to gauge the thermal to electric efficiency of a material, the The dimensionless thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) is used and is given by ZT = S2T/ρλ. Where, S, is the Seebeck coefficient, ρ, is the electrical resistivity, T is the absolute temperature, and λ, is the thermal conductivity. Since the three terms are interdependent (any change in one parameter will affect the others), for the past 50 years, the average ZT over the entire temperature range has remained stagnant at a ZT of 1. It has been theorized that nanoinclusions could enhance ZT by reducing the thermal conductivity via interface scattering. Recent experimental work at UCLA, in collaboration at the Fleurial-Caillat group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA and Dresselhaus-Chen group at MIT demonstrates that similar effects can be achieved in densified nanoscale bulk materials via sintering of large scale quantities of nanostructured materials.
Honors & Awards
- RMIT International Fellow, Melbourne, Australia – 2020
- Highly Cited Researcher Clarivate Analytics (Materials Science) – 2019
- The American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award – 2019
- Suslick-Sessler Lecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – 2019
- American Institute of Chemists Fellow – 2019
- European Academy of Sciences Fellow – 2018
- Highly Cited Researcher Clarivate Analytics (Cross-Field) – 2018
- Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize – 2018
- Chemistry Graduate Student Council Invited Speaker, University of Houston – 2018
- National Science Foundation Creativity Award 2017-19
- MilliporeSigma Lecturer, Penn State University – 2017
- Thomson-Reuters Most Highly Cited Author (Materials Science) – 2016
- Elsevier Scopus Most Cited Researcher (Materials Science and Engineering) – 2016
- American Chemical Society Fellow – 2016
- Materials Research Society Medal – 2015
- Thomson-Reuters Most Highly Cited Author (Chemistry) – 2015
- Inorganic Summer Lecturer, Northwestern University – 2015
- Closs Lecture, University of Chicago – 2015
- Distinguished Lecturer, Santa Monica College – 2015
- Sigma-Aldrich Distinguished Lecture, Georgia Institute of Technology – 2015
- Thomson-Reuters Most Highly Cited Author (Chemistry) – 2014
- Royal Society of Chemistry Fellow – 2014
- Walter O’Conner Memorial Lecture, Los Angeles Community College – 2014
- Global Water Awards: Distinction Award for Technology Innovation (with E. Hoek) – 2013
- Faculty Research Lecture (UCLA) – 2013
- Neil Bartlett Memorial Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry, UC Berkeley – 2013
- American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials – 2012
- Robert’s Lectureship, University College of London – 2012
- Recognition from Nature Nanotechnology for Most Highly Cited Paper – 2012
- Materials Research Society Fellow – 2011
- NASA Inventions and Contributions Board Award – 2011
- Adjunct Professor, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia – 2010
- Varon Visiting Professor, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, 2009-10
- Richard Tolman Medal for “Outstanding Contributions to Chemistry in So. CA” – 2009
- Top 20 Most Cited Author Award from Chemical Communications – 2009
- Focused Center Research Program Inventor Recognition Awar – 2008
- Herbert Newby McCoy Research Award (UCLA) – 2007
- Australian Research Council Distinguished Lecturer – 2006
- Microelectronics Advanced Research Corp. Inventor Recognition Award – 2006
- Ecka-Granules Lecturer, University of Tasmania, Australia – 2005
- Visiting Professorial Fellow, University of Wollongong, Australia – 2005
- College Marshall for Letters and Science Graduation (UCLA) – 2005
- J. William Fulbright Senior Scholar – 2004-05
- Gold Shield Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence (UCLA) – 2002-04
- American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow – 2000
- Buck-Whitney Research Award (Eastern NY Section, American Chemical Society) – 1997
- John Simon Guggenheim Fellow – 1996-97
- Defense Science Study Group Fellow – 1994-95
- Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow – 1993-97
- Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award (UCLA) – 1993
- Herbert Newby McCoy Research Award (UCLA) – 1992
- Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award 1991-95
- Glen T. Seaborg Research Award (UCLA) – 1991
- Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching (UCLA) – 1990
- David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering – 1989-94
- Exxon Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry (American Chemical Society) – 1989
- National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award – 1987-92