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National Science Foundation grant funds next-gen electronics research

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Assistant Professor Janelle Leger and her undergraduate research assistants are studying conductive polymers. | Photo by Ilya Kosilkin

The National Science Foundation has awarded one of its most prestigious grants to Assistant Professor Janelle Leger, who is looking at whether organic materials can become a next generation of low-cost semiconductors.

With the help of several undergraduates, Leger is developing innovative ways to use conductive polymers to replace silicon and other inorganic semiconductors for use in lighting, solar-energy conversion and solid-state memory. She’s looking at organic materials that are more flexible and cheaper than traditional semiconductors such as silicon. Some could even be produced with low-cost techniques similar to inkjet or screen printing, and could help make solar panels and other green technology more accessible.

“Most of the actual work is being done by undergrads,” Leger says. “What’s really cool about Western is that students here have an opportunity to really carry their own research projects.”

Leger came to WWU in 2008 as part of the faculties of both the Physics and Chemistry departments. She’s also a member of Western’s Applied Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC).

The five-year, $530,000 Early CAREER grant is the NSF’s most prestigious award to support the research of junior faculty who are strong teachers and scholars. Leger is also working with North Seattle Community College to smooth the pathways for students interested in studying materials science at Western.