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Eklund Named Graffin Lecturer in Carbon Science and Engineering

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Peter Eklund, professor of physics and of materials science and engineering, has been named the George D. Graffin Lecturer in Carbon Science and Engineering by the American Carbon Society. The lectureship, supported by grants from the Asbury Graphite Mills Inc., honors George D. Graffin, a pioneer in the natural graphite industry. Each year the Society selects a lecturer who has made distinguished contributions to carbon science and engineering.

Eklund has been recognized internationally for the discovery of the photopolymerization of fullerenes--or the bonding of two or more of these small molecules under the influence of radiant energy, or light--a discovery that later was confirmed by nuclear-magnetic-resonance (NMR) imaging. His group also was the first to demonstrate the utility of Vibrational Spectroscopy in characterizing the fundamental properties of several classes of carbon materials, including fullerenes and carbon nanotubes.

Eklund is particularly interested in the synthesis and development of growth models for carbon nanotubes and crystalline nanowires, focusing on the physical and chemical properties of these quantum filaments. His group currently is developing lithographic procedures for making electrical contacts to individual nanotubes and nanowires. He also is investigating the use of carbon nanotubes as thermoelectric chemical sensors, as well as phonon confinement in nanotubes and small-diameter semiconducting nanowires. His group was among the first to report that carbon nanotubes can store hydrogen in significant amounts only at very low temperatures.

Using the results of optical, spectroscopic, and electrical-transport measurements, Eklund builds microscopic models of the structure of new materials to explain their physical properties. He also is working to develop materials that can be used for thermoelectric refrigeration--a technique that uses no moving parts; but rather, uses the flow of electrons through different electrical conductors to transfer heat energy--with a goal of making it a viable alternative to current refrigeration technologies.

Eklund was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1997 in recognition of his contributions related to the synthesis and optical properties of various solid-state forms of carbon. He is a member of the Materials Research Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Carbon Society. In 2005, he was named to the Solid State Sciences Committee of the National Academy of Sciences. He has held visiting professorships at several universities in Japan, and was a visiting scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1985 and 1986. He has coauthored two books, contributed chapters to seventeen books, and published more than two hundred scientific papers. He holds three U.S. patents as a result of his materials research and has five additional patents pending.

Eklund participated in the early development of three small research-and-development businesses. He and his colleagues at PhotoStealth, Inc., developed computer-generated camouflage patterns that could be printed on textiles. At ICMR, Inc., now known as NeoPhotonics, Inc., the research was focused on laser-driven synthesis of nanoparticles and coatings. At CarboLex, Inc., where he is president and CEO, he worked on large-scale production of bundles of single-walled carbon nanotubes.

Eklund came to Penn State as a professor of physics in 1999. Prior to that he was an assistant professor, associate professor, and Research Professor at the University of Kentucky from 1977 to 1999, where he was also associate director of the Center for Applied Energy Research from 1991 to 1998. He was a postdoctoral research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1975 to 1977, and was an associate engineer at the Lockheed Missile and Space Company from 1968 to 1969. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his doctoral degree in solid-state physics from Purdue University in 1974.

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