Dunbar P. Birnie, III

Dunbar P. Birnie, III
Corning/Saint-Gobain/Malcolm G. McLaren
Professor of Ceramic Engineering

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
607 Taylor Road,
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8065
Ph. (848) 445-5605
FAX (732) 445-5595

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Solar Cell Processing Research: Recent research has focused on making titanium oxide coatings for application in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC’s). This architecture for solar cells is suitable for scaling to roll-to-roll printing processes and our research has examined lower temperature sintering as well as templating methods to enhance the coupled electrical performance for the electrolyte. Since coating thickness has a direct impact on solar cell efficiency then our studies of the coating process fundamentals can lead to faster processes, cheaper production, and high efficiency operation.

Solar Usage in Systems – Powering Future Transportation: When working on solar cell processing it is also important to understand the bigger picture about how solar is implemented for usage in systems. Our work in this area has included aspects of solar tracker design for improving overall energy capture as well as examining solar usage in conjunction with electric and hybrid vehicles. We are particularly interested in how the practical usage of these technologies together will influence the engineering design. 

Batteries for Grid Storage: When building toward more expansive solar installation then it becomes much more important to have electrical storage for the grid. This amounts to a massive amount of storage so cost and long term cyclability are key issues. I’m especially interested in systems where ceramic materials are enablers to achieve the high performance desired. One such case is the sodium b”-alumina that is used as the electrolyte in sodium battery systems. I’m interested in crystal chemistry as well as processing angles to improve the performance of the electrolyte.

Sol-Gel Coating Quality Studies: Prof. Birnie has extensive experience in making coatings from solutions - especially using the "spin-coating" technique and applications requiring the "sol-gel" chemistry for achieving useful phases and microstructures. Specific research topics have emphasized coating quality studies and understanding of various defect formation mechanisms. Striations, chuck-marks, and skin failures all have important signatures that allow for diagnosis and improvement of coating thickness uniformity for many important applications.

Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Efforts: One key aspect of Materials Science and Engineering - and of my own research interests in particular - is the interdisciplinary blend of skills that is required for ultimate success. This emphasis is well reflected in the current effort at Rutgers called the "Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices, and Nanotechnology" (or the IAMDN). This center brings together faculty from Physics, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering and other related fields. We expect the synergy of our research efforts will enable us to create and develop new technologies and applications where solid material characteristics impact the final device functionality.


MSE 405: Solar Cell Design and Processing: Making efficient solar cells requires clever design for strategic absorption of a wide range of wavelengths of light and conversion of this light into electricity. This class covers a number of processing techniques used in making high efficiency solar cells. We explore how variations in process parameters can influence various aspects of the solar cell operation. Optical, electrical, mechanical and thermal properties are all considered. Throughout the class a strong "design" emphasis is made to help students understand how to reach high efficiency.

MSE 440: Electrochemical Materials and Devices: Electrochemical materials and devices are playing an ever-increasing role in our technology driven society. Electrochemical energy storage and conversion devices such as advanced batteries and fuel cells are in massive and rapidly growing demand as the power source for numerous wireless telecommunication devices and portable information technologies, and for the forthcoming electric and hybrid vehicles on the world's transportation scene. Electrochemical sensors are yet another massive field where countless industrial, environmental and biomedical applications are found. An emphasis is placed on the integration of electrochemical principles and materials science for innovating in the area of modern electrochemical devices.

Physical Ceramics textbook: Fundamental aspects of ceramic crystal structure, atom motion, and phase equilibria are covered to provide a strong foundation for understanding the processing and properties of ceramic materials. This textbook is coauthored with Yet-Ming Chiang and W. D. Kingery. 
Department Accreditation Facilitator (for ABET): Our department has an active system for measuring and understanding the quality of our curriculum. I help accumulate and process data for these assessment mechanisms. The ABET website can be found HERE.

Rutgers Solar Racing Car Team: I am the faculty advisor to this student run organization. The club designs, builds, and races cars in the biennial North American Solar Challenge - an intercollegiate competition where solar-powered cars race long distance on the open road. The team website can be found HERE.

American Ceramic Society: I am a long time active member and Fellow in this professional organization for ceramic science and industry. I participate actively in the Basic Science Division and belong also to the Glass and Optical Materials Division as well as the Electronics Division. The ACerS website can be found HERE.

Updated: October 2019