Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, Room 106
Phone: +1-508-831-4828
Fax: +1-508-831-5680

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Pratap Mahesh Rao

The challenge of meeting the growing energy needs of society and replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources is a daunting one. My research is aimed at creating materials that will be the building blocks of economical, large-scale, clean energy technologies of the future.

The key to creating effective energy conversion and storage materials is controlling the flow of energy, matter and electricity at the nanoscale by careful design of the shape, size and composition of materials at the same scale. This is the first thrust of my research. I am primarily interested in developing materials for cheap yet efficient solar cells that either generate electricity or directly generate chemical fuels such as hydrogen or methanol, and in developing materials for new high-capacity, high-power batteries. In both cases, I use nanoscale scaffolds and building blocks to create composite materials with intricate but controllable structures at the nanoscale.

The second thrust of my research is to create methods to grow these nanomaterials rapidly, cheaply and at large scales that match the scale of our energy problem. To do this, I develop methods that use flames as a source of heat and reactants to grow carefully structured nanomaterials from raw materials such as metals. Flames are uniquely suited to large-scale materials synthesis because of their high temperature, volumetric heat generation and highly tunable chemistry.

Students in my lab can expect to work on highly interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of materials and thermal sciences. They will design nanomaterials, develop synthesis methods for the nanomaterials, and test the nanomaterials in real solar cells and batteries. I look forward to exploring these interesting topics with my students and encouraging them to apply their creativity to solving some of our most difficult problems!

Research Interests

  • Flame synthesis and processing of nanomaterials
  • Nanomaterials for solar energy conversion
  • Nanomaterials for energy storage
  • Hierarchical and multifunctional nanomaterials


  • BS, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2007
  • PhD, Stanford University, 2013

Featured Publications

  • I. S. Cho et al., “Codoping TiO2 Nanowires with (W, C) for Enhancing Photoelectrochemical Performance”, Nature Communications, Vol. 4, Article No. 1723, 2013.
  • P. M. Rao et al., “Flame Synthesis of WO3 Nanotubes and Nanowires for Efficient Photoelectrochemical Water-Splitting”, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, Vol. 34 (2), pp. 2187–2195, 2013.
  • I. S. Cho et al., “Branched TiO2 Nanorods for Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Production,” Nano Letters, Vol. 11 (11), pp. 4978-4984, 2011.
  • P. M. Rao, X. Zheng, “Unique Magnetic Properties of Single Crystal γ-Fe2O3 Nanowires Synthesized by Flame Vapor Deposition,” Nano Letters, Vol. 11 (6), pp. 2390-2395, 2011.
  • P. M. Rao et al., “Rapid Catalyst-Free Flame Synthesis of Dense, Aligned α-Fe2O3 Nanoflake and CuO Nanoneedle Arrays,” Nano Letters, Vol. 9 (8), pp. 3001-3006, 2009.
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