ChBE Spring 2024 Seminar Series: Alex D. Nikolov – Dielectric Polarization Electricity Harvesting From Photon Energy

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering presents its spring seminar series featuring guest speaker Alex D. Nikolov, a research professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology, who will give a presentation on “Dielectric Polarization Electricity Harvesting From Photon Energy.” This seminar is open to the public and will take place on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, from 3:15–4:30 p.m. in room 108 of Perlstein Hall.

Research Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Alex D. Nikolov


Pyroelectricity is the spontaneous electric response of a polar, dielectric material to a change in external energy impulse.  The use of ferroelectrics for harvesting solar energy is an inspiring research area, and this approach has many potential technological applications, such as in pyroelectric actuating devices, light-heat rotor engines, pyroelectric heat converters, motion sensors, infrared thermometers, pyrolytic nuclear fusion, and heat energy harvesting devices. Pyroelectrics and piezoelectrics are ferroelectric materials: ceramics, minerals, and polymers with a Perovskite molecular crystallographic cubic crystal structure and general formula of ABX3 (e.g., LaYbO3, CaTiO3, and PbZr0.52 Ti0.48 O3) that is polarized under external energy impulses and converts energy to voltage. PZT-based-ceramics are some of the most studied ferroelectric materials, and they have a wide field of applications. The effect of residual stress or heat on ferroelectrics used to convert photons-phonon into electricity was investigated. The data analysis reveals that when the PET-PZT piezoelectric transducer is UV irradiated with a 405 nm wavelength, it becomes a photon-phonon-heat-stress electric energy converter and capacitator. Our objective was to evaluate the PET-PZT photon-phonon-heat-stress electric energy conversion performance and the role of the light’s wavelength and intensity.


Alex D. Nikolov is currently a research professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. He joined the Illinois Tech community in the summer of 1990. His research interest is focused on the colloidal (nano-sized) particle self-assembly phenomenon in confined geometry (e.g., liquid films, foam, and meniscuses). He observed that the liquid films formed from colloidal dispersions thin in a stepwise manner (stratifies). He and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Darsh T. Wasan discovered that the film stepwise thinning phenomenon is a manifestation of the colloidal particle self-layering (structuring) inside the thinning film. As a result, of the of particle layering/structuring, the mean potential of interactions between the constrained film surfaces is the oscillatory decay. He elucidated that the oscillatory decay potential (the potential generated by the particle layering, or structuring, determines the wettability, spreading and stability of dispersions (e.g., foam, emulsion and suspensions)). Nikolov has supervised and co-supervised more than 20 M.S. and Ph.D. students and postdocs, whose work has resulted in over 200 publications (h index 49). Nikolov has won several awards including Bulgarian National Award for the discovery of nano-fluid structural forces. He is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a member of the editorial board of the peer-reviewed journal, Advances in Colloid and Interface of Science.

Currently his research focuses on the areas of:

Thin liquid films; foams; emulsions and nano-particle suspensions wetting; spreading and adhesion of nanofluid on solid surfaces colloidal (nano-sized) particle entropy nanoparticles structural transitions in confined geometry; methods for developing nano-structured materials advanced nanomaterials: photon and phonon science for energy technology.