UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State researchers Jose D. Fuentes, professor of meteorology, and Feifei Shi, assistant professor of energy engineering, have joined the Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE). Both are faculty members in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
Jose D. Fuentes
Fuentes’ focus is advancing understanding of the surface-atmosphere interactions responsible for the transport of energy and trace gases in the lower atmosphere. From air quality to climate change, Fuentes’ work contributes to creating new understanding of the chemical cycles associated with the formation of air pollutants, which can directly impact both human health and the environment.
“Meteorology brings so many new opportunities to study processes or phenomena in various environments and regions of the planet that impact weather, climate and chemistry,” Fuentes said. “And because humans keep modifying the atmosphere in so many ways, there are opportunities to investigate the consequences of those changes.”
Throughout his career, he has done outreach activities to share research findings to explain the importance of science to the general public. He also has a passion for teaching and works to engage students in his research as a way to train future scholars and keep meteorology vibrant.
“Students from all backgrounds, but particularly from underrepresented groups, participate in my research activities,” Fuentes said. “I have mentored about 30 graduate students and numerous undergraduates.”
Fuentes said he joined IEE because of the unique and rare opportunities to participate in pan-University activities at all levels, ranging from engagement in joint research projects to organizing seminars and workshops.
“Given the broad expertise that Penn State faculty members have, it makes perfect sense to have teams of research engage in broad and interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach,” Fuentes said. “Research topics such as climate change requires the participation of investigators with multiple sets of skills, expertise and research tools. Penn State is really fortunate to have an institute that continuously promotes interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.”
Shi’s work lies at the intersection of surface chemistry, material science and mechanical engineering, with emphasis on integrated energy systems. Her work involves innovations in conversion, storage, transport and consumption systems, including batteries, fuel cells and super capacitors.
Shi said her work benefits electrical vehicles, portable electronics and large-scale energy storage for buildings.
“My expertise, possibly the unique strength, is to diagnose the interface problems in energy systems,” Shi said.
According to Shi, interface problems in batteries involve the surface degradation and aging during a battery’s usage, which decreases battery performance.
“The methods used to examine these problems allows us to get a full picture of dynamic processes on the interface, which is usually at a very small scale, from subnanometer to several nanometers.”
Shi said that diagnostic research is crucial for energy systems.
“For example, we exam the failure mechanism for batteries, in order to extend and predict the lifespan of current lithium-ion batteries and to innovate for next-generation batteries,” Shi said. “Interfacial problems in batteries will also cause the severe safety issues, like catching on fire or exploding. Hence, interfacial problem is the key for the battery design.”