Assistant Professor Paulo Araujo Receives NSF CAREER Award to Work on Optical Properties of Polymers

Paulo AraujoFrom the UA News Center | The nation’s most prestigious recognition of top-performing young scientists was recently awarded to a physicist at The University of Alabama.

The National Science Foundation granted a CAREER Award to Dr. Paulo T. Araujo, UA assistant professor of physics and astronomy. With the funding from the award, Araujo will understand how to control the optical properties of certain polymers and expand their application toward more sustainable technology.

The Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Araujo’s $600,000 grant will help his lab investigate how a type of polymer, or repeating chains of molecules, interact with light with the goal of tuning polymers to behave as designed.

“Every time you change the properties of the polymer, you are changing the ways it behaves when it interacts with light,” he said. “By the end of the project we hope to have a complete understanding of these interactions and how to manipulate them.”

Their discoveries could have important implications for the design and control of polymers used in a wide variety of emerging technologies, including light-emitting diodes and solar energy conversion applications. Tunable polymers could be used in electronic devices to reduce reliability on traditional materials, possibly leading to more efficient, less expensive technologies that are more sustainable than using non-renewable materials.

“Polymers are everywhere already, but future technologies will need them even more,” Araujo said. “It’s urgent to use materials that we can actually control and synthesize so they will work in different environments and different types of interactions.”