UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In its mission to transform the way we generate, supply, transmit, store and use energy, the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC), housed within the U.S. Department of Energy, has selected two projects with participation by the Penn State Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering for funding.
As multi-university initiatives, EFRC funding creates partnerships between researchers, national laboratories and non-profits to accelerate the critical research needed for advanced energy capabilities. With an expected combined funding of $300,000 a year, Adri van Duin, professor of mechanical engineering, is a co-principal investigator on both projects.
The first project, "Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures, and Transport," will be led by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It aims to understand the atomistic origins of electrolyte and coupled electron transport under nanoconfinement that will enable transformative advances in capacitive electrical energy storage and other energy relevant interfacial systems. A specific material target includes MXenes, a novel class of materials that has shown outstanding performance in electrochemical energy storage.
The second, conducted with the University of Utah, will focus on multi-scale fluid-solid interactions in architected and natural materials, including silicates, aluminosilicates and carbonates and their behavior during exposure to water and water/electrolyte mixtures.
“What we’re exploring can be potentially of great interest for capacitors, membranes and their capabilities,” van Duin explained. “This is fundamental science into the energy storage field. We’re going to explore the longevity, exposure, coating and geochemical perspectives which will be of major importance.”
“20 or 30 years ago, this type of research couldn’t have been done,” van Duin said. “With increasing access to computational facilities, like the ACI cluster at the Penn State Institute of CyberScience, we are now able to match experiments with high performance computing.”