Yifan Diao wins Fall 2019 LEAP contest and Spectra’s 2019 Lightscapes competition

Yifan Diao, a graduate student in Julio D'Arcy's lab who is also affiliated with IMSE, won funding and recognition from two campus groups.


Diao (with certificate) and the other members of the Julio D'Arcy team

Yifan Diao, a PhD candidate in the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering (IMSE), won funding from the Leadership and Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program (LEAP) in their Fall 2019 contest and claimed first prize in Spectra’s 2019 Lightscapes competition.

LEAP is an entrepreneurial program at Washington University in St. Louis where students can bring their creative thinking and ambitious drive to make change. Twenty-five teams with projects ranging from treating cancer through metabolic inhibitors to ultrahigh-speed optical exams entered the contest to acquire funding for their venture.

Diao, team leader of the Julio M. D’Arcy team, with teammates Yang Lu, Haoru Yang, and Hongmin Wang, won $50,000 from the program. Their project, which uses rust for micro-supercapacitor fabrication, takes rust and activates it as a precursor. As a precursor, rust can help develop high energy and power densities in micro-supercapacitors for microelectronics applications.

"The mountain"

Diao developed the idea for the project based on his technique of rust-based vapor-phase polymerization (RVPP). His new method produces high-performing conducting polymers, which advances the fields of conducting polymer synthesis, vapor-phase chemical deposition, and energy storage through fabrication of state-of-the-art supercapacitors.

In his role as developer and team leader, Diao facilitated team discussions, guided the writing of the final report, gave the pitch, did the dry run presentation, and delivered the final presentation to LEAP. Diao and his team’s dedication and innovation resulted in their award of $50,000 of funding to be used to license and commercialize the idea.

"The rose"

Not only did Diao impress the judges of LEAP, but he also wowed the judges of Spectra’s 2019 Lightscapes competition. Diao’s lightscapes, “The mountain” and “The rose,” are two of many lightscapes entered into the contest. All the pieces are beautiful, displaying bright arrays of colors and structures the naked human eye can’t see. However, the colors and structures of Diao’s “The mountain” and “The rose” hold a level of artistry that propelled them to first place.

Taken in D’Arcy Lab, “The mountain” is composed of iron crystals and conducting polymer, or PEDOT, on a colorful film. “The rose” is composed of conducting polymer (PEDOT) with 2D nanosheets and 1D nanofibers.


This story originally appeared in IMSE news.