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Fellowship Awarded to Develop Better LEDs and Solar Cells

Oct. 17, 2008-John Lupton, associate professor of physics at the University of Utah, received a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, worth $875,000, from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for his innovative LED technological research.

“This is a prominent national award intended to identify the best and brightest junior faculty members and provide them with generous resources that will allow them to make breakthrough discoveries,” says David Kieda, physics department chair.

Lupton already has published several important research papers since arriving at the U in 2006. His latest is a study that was published in August in the journal Nature Materials, wherein he demonstrated the maximum possible efficiency of organic light-emitting diodes (LED’s) and successfully controlled an electrical current using the “spin” within electrons, a step toward building an organic semiconductor switch for ultrafast computers and electronics. “This is the first time anyone has done really fundamental, hands-on quantum mechanics with an organic LED,” Lupton says. “This is tough stuff.”

Lupton will utilize his Packard Fellowship to develop strategies to improve the performance of devices such as LEDs and solar cells, as well as develop novel optical sensing techniques.

The Packard Fellowship Program has limited paperwork and administrative requirements, ensuring that young researchers across the country can dedicate their resources toward breakthroughs on vexing scientific problems. The foundation says the fellowships are intended “to provide support for unusually creative researchers early in their careers.”

Every year, the foundation invites the presidents of 50 universities to nominate two professors each from their institutions. Nominations are reviewed by an advisory panel of distinguished scientists and engineers. The panel selects 20 Fellows to receive individual awards of $875,000, payable over five consecutive years.

Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators engaged in research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering and must be within the first three years of their faculty careers. Disciplines that are considered include physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, computer science, earth science, ocean science, and engineering.