Jeffrey R. S. Brownson

Directory Info

Jeffrey R. S. Brownson

Associate Professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering

212 Hosler Building / 265 MRL Building


Biographical Sketch: 

Dr. Brownson joined the faculty of the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering (EME) in the summer of 2007. He offers a unique background as a materials scientist for solar energy conversion systems, having completed his degrees in geoscience, materials science, and environmental chemistry. Following his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin—Madison ("Photoreactive anatase consolidation: UV hardening and surface chemistry of alcohol-modified TiO2 films."), Dr. Brownson pursued postdoctoral research in photovoltaic thin film materials in France at the CNRS Institut de Chimie et Matériaux de Paris-Est, returning to Wisconsin to develop nanostructured metal oxide films for sensitized photovoltaic cells.

Dr. Brownson has recently emerged from his two-year term as the faculty director and PI for Natural Fusion, the Penn State solar house enterprise in research/education/outreach, participating in the DOE-sponsored Solar Decathlon 2009 in Washington, D.C. The Natural Fusion Team successfully earned Third Place in both Engineering and Lighting Design competitions, and the Natural Fusion home is about to be set on the Bayer MaterialScience campus just outside of Pittsburgh.

Jeffrey revels in the exchange between the sciences, society, and the arts, and now serves as the program officer for the upcoming on-line degree, Bachelor of Arts in Energy & Sustainability Policy, housed in the Department of EME in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Educational Background: 

Ph.D. (Environmental Chemistry & Technology), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005

M.S. (Geology), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2001

B.S. (Geology), University of North Dakota, 1999

Research Interests: 
  • Thin film materials synthesis for photovoltaic devices
  • System Integrative Photovoltaics (SIPV): design for building integration
  • System-scale transient energy simulations for buildings
  • Environmental Technology: Sustainable materials design
Active Research Projects: 

The Brownson Research Team is housed at the Materials Research Laboratory at the University Park campus, and currently focuses on photovoltaic materials and systems design. Our research and educational philosophy is to foster a unique integration of expertise within the field of solar energy conversion. Our research deals with: synthesis and characterization of inorganic photovoltaic materials, considering sustainable materials design for energy conversion; System-Integrative Photovoltaics (SIPV); and system scale transient energy simulations for buildings and for network (electrical grid) deployment of solar technologies.

Current Projects

Metal chalcogenide thin film materials for PV devices:

Current materials research is focused on synthesis and characterization of tin monosulfide (SnS), and cadmium telluride; both promising light absorbing materials for thin-film solar cells due to its favorable light absorption properties, stable nature and the inexpensive availability of the raw materials. Researchers: Mr. Ramprasad Chandrasekharan (Ph.D. student); Mesude Bayrakci (Ph.D. candidate); Ms. Katherine Nicol (undergrad: Energy Eng./ChemE); and Ms. Danielle Norcini (undergrad: Physics).

Computational simulation and testing of System Integrative Photovoltaics (SIPV):

Rather than replacing one element in a home with PV and sacrificing performance in both components, we focus our integration of PV into a wall or roof system, we arrive at interesting synergies that maximize performance of all the system components. Our research into the thermal benefits of Green Roof Integrative PV (GRIPV) is a complement with the Natural Fusion project at Penn State. Our simulation and testing recently has added characterization and modeling of ultracapacitor performance as power conditioning elements in PV systems. Researchers: Mr. Lucas Witmer (M.S. candidate), Mr. Charith Taminneedi (M.S. candidate)

Analysis of economic strategies for deployment of small photovoltaic systems in Africa:

We are also exploring innovative integration of PV systems as remote power supply for rural homes and developments in parts of Africa. it is economically beneficial to sell to the grid. Researcher: Mr. Oladipo A. Ositelu (M.S. candidate)

Natural Fusion 2009 (

The Solar Decathlon is a biannual international competition for university students and faculty to design, build, and operate a home powered by the sun. The Natural Fusion project for 2007-2009 (now completed) united design and engineering, and energy demands are balanced against our solar resource. We will soon continue to address a contemporary problem that is important to researchers, society, and industry, in collaboration with the new owner of the home, Bayer MaterialScience. Researchers: Mr. Lucas Witmer (M.S. candidate), Mr. Jeff Rayl (undergrad: Electrical Engineering)

Selected Publications: 
  1. S. Blumsack, J. R. S. Brownson, L. Witmer, Efficiency, Economic and Environmental Assessment of Ground-Source Heat Pumps in Central Pennsylvania 2009, Proc. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa HI.
  2. Brownson, J. R. S., Lévy-Clément, C. Electrodeposition of nanostructured cobalt hydroxide and cobalt layered double hydroxide thin films. Electrochim. Acta 2009, 54(26), 6637.
  3. Hara, Y., Brownson, J., Anderson, M. Solvothermal Fabrication of ZnO nanorods using ethanolic quantum dot precursors. Phy. Stat. Sol. (a) 2009, 206(4), 711.
  4. Brownson, J. R. S., Lévy-Clément, C. Electrodeposition of a- and ß-Cobalt Hydroxides Thin Films via Dilute Nitrate Solution Reduction. Phys. Stat. Sol. (b), 2008, 245(9), 1785.
  5. Brownson, J. R. S., Georges, C., Larramona, G., Jacob, A., Delatouche, B., Lévy-Clément, C. Chemistry of tin monosulfide (d-SnS) electrodeposition: Effects of pH and temperature with tartaric acid. J. Electrochem. Soc. 2007, 155(1), D40.
  6. Brownson, J. R. S., Georges, C., Lévy-Clément, C. Synthesis of a d-SnS polymorph by electrodeposition. Chem. Materials, 2006 18(26), 6397.
  7. Brownson, J. R. S., Tejedor-Tejedor, M. I., Anderson, M. A. FTIR study of methanol and ethanol interactions with anatase surfaces with respect to UV irradiation. J. Phys. Chem. B, 2006 110(25), 12494.
  8. Brownson, J. R. S., Tejedor-Tejedor, M. I., Anderson, M. A. Photoreactive anatase consolidation characterized by FTIR spectroscopy. Chem. Materials, 2005, 17(25), 6304.
Recent Activities: 


Invited Talks:

  • Renewable Sources: Why are we doing this? Greenbuild International Conference. Session R09: "Living with Sustainable Energy in a Global Society". Phoenix, AZ. Nov. 11-14, 2009.
  • People-Planet-Profit: How the Solar Decathlons are reshaping the way we develop solar technology. World Environment Center Roundtable (co-hosted by Bayer Materials Science and the Natural Resources Defense Council). "Implementing Sustainable Development in the Building Industry: Green Design and Business Strategy". National Press Club in Washington, D.C. May 11, 2009.
  • Power from the Sun: Solar 101. NE Renewable Energy Conference. University Park, PA. August 27 2008.


  • Brownson, J. R. S., Iulo, L. D. Upsetting the Balance-Beam: System Integrative Photovoltaics as purposeful manipulation of energy demand and microclimate in the built environment. 39th American Solar Energy Society Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. (accepted for May 2010)
  • Iulo, L. D., Brownson, J. R. S. Seed vs. Catalyst: How the beanstalk reached beyond the clouds—sustainability ethic in the Pennsylvania Solar Decathlons. 39th American Solar Energy Society Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. (accepted for May 2010)
  • Rayl, J., Brownson, J. R. S. Integrative Photovoltaic Awnings in the Natural Fusion Home: Solar Decathlon 2009 Prototype Analysis. 39th American Solar Energy Society Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. (accepted for May 2010)
  • Tammineedi, C., Brownson, J. R. S. Modeling Improved Behavior in Stand-Alone PV Systems with Battery-Ultracapacitor Hybrid Systems. 39th American Solar Energy Society Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. (accepted for May 2010)
  • Witmer, L., Brownson, J. R. S. Transforming the Built Environment – System Integrative Design in the 2009 Penn State Solar Decathlon Net-Zero Energy Home. 39th American Solar Energy Society Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. (accepted for May 2010)
  • Brownson, J. R. S., Rayl, J., Blumsack, S. A., 2009: Matching Photovoltaic Systems to Energy Loads. Presented at 38th American Solar Energy Society National Conference, Buffalo, NY, May 11-16, 2009.
  • Brownson, J. R. S., Tsang, E., Anderson, M. A., 2007: Coarsened TiO2 nanoparticles generated from basic titanate precursors. Presented at the 233rd ACS National Meeting, Chicago, IL, March 25-29.
  • Brownson, J. R. S., Georges, C., Larramona, G., Jacob, A., Delatouche, B., Lévy-Clément, C., 2007: Chemistry of tin monosulfide (d-SnS) electrodeposition: Effects of pH and temperature with tartaric acid. Presented at 211th ECS Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Recent Synergistic Activities:

Director, Natural Fusion project: Supervising research/education/outreach for the Pennsylvania State University faculty/student/industry team in Solar Decathlon 2009. Involving seven colleges and three industrial partners. November 2007-January 2010.

Lead Instructor: Exploring Renewable Energy Technologies and the Materials that Make it Happen. Science Workshop for Educators. NASA's Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium. June 2008, 2009.

Transdisciplinary Course Development: Living with Sustainable Energy in a Global Society. Leading collaboration with engineering, science, design and policy faculty and students for a yearlong course sequence that included summer voyage to experience sustainable energy in Germany and France. July 2008-Dec 2009.



  • 2002: Mineralogical Society of America: Edward H. Kraus Grant for Research in Crystallography
  • 2001: Clay Minerals Society Student Research Grant
  • 1999, 2000: Lewis G. Weeks Graduate Research Fellowship