Baratunde Cola Honored with Prestigious Award

The Strategic Energy Institute Congratulates Baratunde "Bara" Cola, associate professor of mechanical engineering, for being honored with the Alan T. Waterman Award.


Dr. Cola pioneered new engineering methods and materials to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale. His team was the first to overcome more than 40 years of research challenges to create a device called an optical rectenna, which turns light into direct current more efficiently than today's technology. This device could lead to highly efficient solar cells with the potential to power new generations of cell phones, laptops, satellites, and drones. The research would potentially double solar cell efficiency at one-tenth of the cost, according to Cola, who wishes to bring transformational applications of carbon nanotubes to the market.

Additionally, Cola and his colleagues were responsible for engineering breakthroughs, including the first thermally conductive amorphous polymer, the first practical electrochemical cell for generating electricity from waste heat, and the first evidence of thermal energy conduction by surface polaritons.

Congress established the Alan T. Waterman Award in August 1975 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the National Science Foundation and to honor its first Director. The annual award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by the National Science Foundation. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $1,000,000 over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social, or other sciences at the institution of the recipient's choice.

Read more about Dr. Cola's honor in Research Horizons.

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