CNSI Elman Family Foundation research focusing on sustainability and clean energy technologies

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Profs. Duan and Caram

In a new video, Professors Xiangfeng Duan and Justin Caram explain their solar cell technology research project, funded by the Elman Family Foundation. View the video here.

Duan is leading the research project titled “Approach Shockley-Queisser limit in CdTe solar cells with pinning-free van der Waals contacts”.  His collaborators are Caram and alumnus Dr. Adam Stieg, (Ph.D. ’07 Gimzewski), California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA (CNSI) Associate Director of Technology Centers; Director, Nano & Pico Characterization Lab.

The project takes advantage of van der Waals forces — which control phenomena such as water droplet formation with attraction or repulsion between molecules at very short range — and the special, quantum mechanics-based capabilities shown by certain atomically thin “two-dimensional” materials. With these tools, the research team hopes to boost the overall efficiency with which solar cells convert sunlight to electricity.

The Elman Family Foundation Innovation Fund (formerly the Noble Family Innovation Fund), established with a $10 million philanthropic commitment to the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, supports basic and translational research involving interactions on the nanoscale — measured in billionths of a meter. Funding is earmarked for projects with substantial promise for commercialization and societal impact. The goal is to create a model for academic research and entrepreneurship that enables strategic investment to seed discoveries that have the potential to be translated for the public good.

For more information please visit:

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,