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EAPSI: Georgia Tech student developing innovative solar cells at Shanghai Donghua Universityle

Photograph of Gio with photoreduced graphene oxide filmsGio with photoreduced graphene oxide films

Giovanni DeLuca has come a long way from his undergraduate days at the University of West Florida. Now a graduate student at Georgia Tech, he spent the summer of 2016 as an EAPSI fellow at the Shanghai Donghua (East China) University in Shanghai, under the mentorship of Prof. Wang Hongzhi. East China University was formerly called China Textile University. Now designated a 211* university, it has great strength in fiber and materials science. Gio’s project “Perovskite Solar Cells Integrated with Graphene-Based Supercapacitors” (NSF# 1613514) aims to integrate perovskite (calcium titanium oxide) photovoltaics with graphene oxide supercapacitors, ideally on a flexible support that could be scaled up and possibly incorporated into clothing. The connection to Donghua was made when Gio’s U.S. mentor, Dr. Elsa Reichmanis, hosted one of Dr. Wang’s students at Georgia Tech for two years. Since then the two groups have continued to collaborate, with students serving as the bridge..

Photograph of Gio with his Chinese mentor, WANG Hongzhi in the lab Gio with his Chinese mentor, WANG Hongzhi in the lab

Gio has not worked overseas before, and is the only American at Donghua University this summer, which meant he experienced a true cultural immersion. Initially offered a desk in a quiet office with faculty, he asked to be moved into a room already occupied by about two dozen students, reasoning that it would facilitate conversation with others who are thinking deeply about his research topic- he says there are not many people at his U.S. university who have such a rich range of ideas. He enjoyed eating meals and socializing with the students, though he kept a punishing 7-day work schedule with very ambitious goals throughout the summer. In a very short time he has won the respect of hisfellow students and mentor at Donghua, and has represented Georgia Tech and the United States with distinction. Gio envisions returning to China, and staying for up to a year, to extend this project and strengthen the collaborative relationship between the two labs. His career goals include not only creating new clean energy materials, but also getting involved in environmental policy.

BACKGROUND

Since 2004 NSF has supported the East Asia-Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) in China, which provides research experiences to 40 U.S. graduate students each summer. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology supports the in-country expenses and logistics for the program, with the China Science and Technology Exchange Center (CSTEC) as the implementing agency.

*Project 211: China the Ministry of Education has designated 116 universities with very high standards in science and technology. ‘