CAER-mentored Projects Win at Recent Science Fairs

By Marybeth McAlister

Four local high school students who were mentored by University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research scientists have proved that experience gained by working in laboratories with mentors is invaluable.

Valerie Sarge, a junior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, placed first in the Energy and Transportation category at the Central Kentucky Regional Science and Engineering Fair, going on to win first place in the same category at the state competition. This qualifies her to go on to Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to be held in Phoenix. Sarge was mentored by John Anthony, chemistry professor and CAER faculty associate. In her work with the solar energy group, Sarge is using organic compounds called furan-based materials. These can be derived from agricultural waste products to create new semiconductors for use in low-cost solar cells. She has been working on synthesis, but may soon move toward creating solar cells.

Will Kimmerer, from Sayre School, won top awards at the regional and state fairs in the Environmental Science category, including second in the Physical Sciences category. Kimmerer obtained carbon material samples for use in his project from CAER and worked closely with CAER Director Rodney Andrews during the project. He was selected for the I-SWEEP 2013 conference (International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project) in Houston, where he will present his work. Additionally, he was selected for the Stockholm Junior Water Award.

Two Dunbar CAER interns placed well at the regional level and went on to compete at the state competition. Rohin Lohe placed first in the "Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering" category, and went on to place third at the state competition. Lohe will compete at the Kentucky Junior Academy of Sciences on April 27. John Luan won in the “Energy and Transportation” category at regionals.

Matt Weisenberger, associate director for carbon materials, is mentoring Lohe with a project titled "Finite Element Analysis of Heat Conduction through Interfaces: Modeling and Experimental Verification with Stainless Steel, Copper, and Multiwall Carbon Nanotube Arrays as Thermal Interface Materials." Lohe has been conducting his research at CAER laboratory facilities and working directly with the carbon materials research staff in completing the tests.

Finally, Luan's project included part of the expertise gained while working with CAER’s electrochemical power sources group under the direction of Associate Director Steve Lipka. Luan is working on a project titled “Carbon-based Capacitive Thin Films for AC Line Filtering,” in which the goal is to demonstrate whether carbon-based supercapacitors can be used as a lower-cost, more-dependable replacement for traditional electrolytic capacitors in electronic devices.

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