Published November 16, 2020

Sustainable Energy

A materials scientist focuses his efforts on harnessing renewable sources of power, especially solar.

Dunbar P. Birnie III’s scholarship and textbook development have influenced research and teaching in the field of ceramic engineering nationally and internationally. He is a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

photo of dunbar birnieBirnie’s core research focuses on renewable energy, particularly at the cutting edge of solar, battery, and related technologies. He also encourages and promotes innovation at Rutgers and in the region. He led a team of Rutgers innovators to win a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to create a five-year I-Corps Site that will help accelerate student and faculty teams’ efforts to commercialize their ideas.

Much of Birnie’s work looks at materials for solar power collection and expanding the use of solar power, both in buildings and for charging batteries in hybrid electric vehicles. One project involves testing the hardware installation of a solar panel for generating power that will enable cars to travel farther with fewer recharging stops. Another NSF-funded project is examining how microstructure enhancements may improve lithium battery performance for electric vehicles.

Birnie teaches courses on solar cell design and processing, electrochemical materials and devices, and ceramics, all with an emphasis on encouraging student innovation and involvement. His strategic outreach efforts include showcasing the department’s achievements in innovation, promoting sustainability on campus, and serving on the oversight board of the Honors College at Rutgers–New Brunswick.

The chair Birnie holds honors McLaren, a professor and chair of Rutgers’ Department of Ceramic Engineering for 25 years and an internationally recognized leader in the field. It was created with funding from Corning Incorporated and Saint-Gobain Advanced Materials Corporation.


This story is part of Rutgers University Foundation’s Endowed Chairs Impact series. Supporting professorships and research helps spark innovation and creativity here in New Jersey and beyond.