Yee Fellow continues work on radiative cooling for wearable technology

5/12/2021 Julia Park

PhD candidate Kai Zhou was awarded the Yee Fellowship from The Grainger College of Engineering for the next academic year.

Written by Julia Park

Kai ZhaoMechSE doctoral student Kai Zhou was honored with a Yee Fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The Yee Memorial Fellowship is a yearlong program for engineering students who are Chinese nationals. The award includes a stipend over two semesters. The fellowship was made possible by Drs. Warren and Ming Ting Yee. Dr. Warren Yee received his PhD in civil engineering from Illinois in 1943, and founded Bio-Tech Research Laboratory, Inc. in Washington, D.C. He was known for thinking of others, especially relatives in China, before himself.

Zhou’s work in Professor Lili Cai’s research group focuses on synthesizing materials for daytime radiative cooling. Radiative cooling achieves a cooling effect even under intense sunlight without any electricity consumption. This technique offers potential energy savings, as cooling efforts currently consume more than 10% of global electricity.  

Materials used for radiative cooling must fulfill stringent requirements on optical properties—in other words they must be highly reflective in the solar spectrum and highly emissive in the infrared band. Zhou and colleagues have been proposing new material designs and synthesizing the materials for radiative cooling. 

Zhou said his short-term career goal is to dig deeper into the research on radiative cooling and smart cooling textiles for personal wearables. After completing his PhD, he plans to apply for a postdoctoral position to better develop his research skill sets. His long-term goal is to thrive in academia, to obtain a faculty position, and to enjoy doing research and teaching.

“This award alleviates some stresses next year, as I will use it to pay off the rest of my undergraduate tuition loan. Additionally, the Yee Fellowship is not not only a wonderful honor but also a stimulus for me, as it will motivate me to continue to be devoted to my research as a graduate student and teaching as a teaching assistant,” Zhou said.

Zhou earned a bachelor’s degree in thermal science and energy engineering in 2018 from the University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei, China), and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2020 from UIUC.

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This story was published May 12, 2021.