Three weeks. Three papers. Three covers.
Xiao Cheng Zeng may not have a formula for world-class research, but the chemist’s recent work is yielding positive reactions from some of his discipline’s most prestigious academic journals.
Zeng, the Chancellor’s University Professor of chemistry, has collaborated with partners both local and global to author studies recently showcased on the covers of three peer-reviewed publications.
On Jan. 11, the Journal of the American Chemical Society – the flagship journal of the world’s largest scientific society – highlighted a paper by Zeng, Nebraska colleague Joseph Francisco, and researchers from Purdue University and the Qatar-based Hamad Bin Khalifa University. The team employed calculations and molecular simulations to investigate the atmospheric behavior of glyoxal, an organic compound that may catalyze the growth of atmosphere-damaging aerosols. By explaining how and when glyoxal will most readily dissolve into liquid water, the study’s proposed mechanics could inform the interpretation of past and future experiments while also generalizing to other cases of atmospheric chemistry.
The Jan. 1 cover of Nanoscale Horizons, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, depicts research from Zeng, Nebraska’s Ming Li and multiple researchers at the University of Kansas. That research reports the existence of a molecular structure – formed by stacking atomically thin layers of two compounds, molybdenum sulfide and rhenium sulfide – whose semiconducting properties differ from most similar dual-layered configurations. According to Zeng and his colleagues, this “quantum well” manages to confine opposite charges – negatively charged electrons and the positively charged “holes” they leave behind when jumping to a higher energy state – to just the layer of rhenium sulfide. Confining electrons and holes to a single layer encourages them to recombine, a process that can emit light-producing photons and marks the newly reported structure as a promising candidate for technologies that include LEDs.
Gracing the Dec. 21 cover of Advanced Energy Materials, another study features work by Zeng, Nebraska’s Ming-Gang Ju, and colleagues from the Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University, Brown University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and South University of Science and Technology of China. The study introduces a straightforward technique for producing lead-free solar cell films made from perovskite, a high-performing and inexpensive class of materials that could eventually replace silicon as the industry’s standard. The European Union and other countries have introduced legislation that significantly restricts the inclusion of lead in electronic devices, making the development of efficient lead-free perovskite an important step toward its widespread acceptance in the global marketplace.
“I was quite amazed by the timing of the three covers, because one came just before Christmas, one on New Year’s Day, and one pre-Chinese New Year (Jan. 28),” Zeng said. “So it appears that 2017 could be a very lucky year for my Nebraska and international teammates.”