"Beyond Batteries: Reimagining the role of ions in electronics," by Susan Fullerton

Fullerton Touched Up Low Res 258x300


The interplay between ions and electrons governs processes as common as the biochemistry essential for life and the performance of devices as ubiquitous as batteries.  The energy that powers our smart phones and laptops is stored by ions. Yet when we peer past the battery and examine the device-scale electronics, mobile ions are nowhere to be found. This is a missed opportunity because the coupling between ions in electrolytes and electrons/holes in novel semiconductors is strong.  For example, in two-dimensional (2D) materials this coupling has uncovered exciting phenomena such as spin polarization, photogalvanic current, current-induced circularly polarized electrolumines­cence, and superconductivity.  Remarkably, these demonstrations have relied on electrolytes that were not designed for investigating semiconductor physics, but instead for energy storage (e.g., solid polymer electrolytes and ionic liquids). Our group is reimagining how ions can be used in electronics when the electrolyte is custom designed to provide a specific functionality or unlock a new mechanism to control transport.  For example, we have developed a “monolayer electrolyte” that is a single molecule thick and is designed for bistability.


Susan Fullerton is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.  After completing her PhD at Penn State in Chemical Engineering in 2009, she joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame as a Research Assistant Professor. At Notre Dame, she extended her PhD work on polymer electrolytes to include applications in nanoelectronics based on 2D crystals.  She joined Pitt in the fall of 2015 and leads the Nanoionics and Electronics Lab. 

Sponsored by the Department of Electrical Engineering