Luis Campos

Vitals

Current Affiliation: Columbia University

Age: 38

Ph.D. alma mater: University of California, Los Angeles

Role model: Campos named his materials mentors Craig Hawker and Miguel Garcia-Garibay. “They taught me to believe in the potential of students and, importantly, that this job is fun.”

In a world without chemistry, I would be: “an architect or have any career related to art. Or a chef.”

Codename: Electron-Doubling Agent

When organic materials chemist Luis Campos was growing up, his mother, who worked at a biochemistry lab, told him he could become anything he wanted—as long as it wasn’t a couch potato.

He has not disappointed. Campos is one of the most talented young organic chemists in academia, says his postdoc adviser, materials mastermind Craig Hawker of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “He’s a trailblazer,” Hawker says.

Even the molecules and materials Campos and his team develop overachieve. For example, his lab has created light-responsive materials that generate two pairs of charge-carriers when struck by a single photon. Conventional solar cells, by contrast, generate at most one pair of charge-carriers per photon.

The two-for-one materials could translate into organic solar cells that better convert sunlight into electricity. These solar cells can be easily made by printing organic materials directly onto low-cost substrates, such as plastics, which means they can be used in ways that rigid silicon cells can only dream about: as flexible power supplies or as energy-harvesting windows, for example. But the lackluster efficiency of organic cells has stymied their widespread adoption.

The higher efficiency materials being developed by the Campos group perform a type of quantum mechanical maneuver known as singlet fission. When a photon excites an electronic singlet state, the material can split it into two triplet states.

Although Campos didn’t discover this process, he has developed materials with remarkable dispositions for achieving singlet fission, notably his so-called “push-pull” copolymers and oligoacene-based materials.

Preparing the next generation of trailblazers is as important to Campos as designing next-gen materials. Campos has prioritized his students’ development as scientists above the results they produce. As a result, his clever and energetic students have become more engaged and more comfortable exploring their creativity in the lab, he says. “The most rewarding part of the job is working with the members of my group.”

Research at a glance

Organic solar cells contain electron donors and acceptors sandwiched between electrodes. These electron-shuffling groups can either exist in separate layers or within the same molecule. Campos’s group develops donors and acceptors that work together to generate two pairs of electronic charge carriers (right) from a single photon of sunlight—a boost in efficiency compared with conventional materials (left and bottom). Credit: Campos Research Group/infinityPV/C&EN

Organic solar cells contain electron donors and acceptors sandwiched between electrodes. These electron-shuffling groups can either exist in separate layers or within the same molecule. Campos’s group develops donors and acceptors that work together to generate two pairs of electronic charge carriers (right) from a single photon of sunlight—a boost in efficiency compared with conventional materials (left and bottom). Credit: Campos Research Group/infinityPV/C&EN

Three key papers:

“Molecular Length Dictates the Nature of Charge Carriers in Single-Molecule Junctions of Oxidized Oligothiophenes” (Nat. Chem. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2160)

“The Evolution of Cyclopropenium Ions into Functional Polyelectrolytes” (Nat. Commun. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6950)

“A Design Strategy for Intramolecular Singlet Fission Mediated by Charge-Transfer States in Donor-Acceptor Organic Materials” (Nat. Mater. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4175)

 

Career paths:

They might be young scientists, but our Talented 12 have already traveled far and wide.

luis_campos_map

 

Stories in C&EN about Campos’s work:

Two-for-One Deal in Solar Cells

A Single-Molecule Diode That Works

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award: Luis M. Campos

 

Watch Campos talk about his research during a special Aug. 22 Talented 12 symposium held at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Philadelphia.

 

Lauren Austin 
Karena Chapman 
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