The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation announced the 2017 recipients of its annual Seed Grants for Energy Research, which supports efforts across the university in the areas of energy, environment, and policy.

Founded in 2013, this seed grant program has funded nearly 40 research teams. The 2017 funding alone totals nearly $553K from the Scott Institute and the EQT Foundation. The EQT-funded projects will specifically research natural gas-related issues.

The following teams from the College of Engineering were funded:

• Associate Professor Shawn Litster (MechE, MSE), along with Associate Professor Kevin Noonan and Professor Tomasz Kowalewski (Mellon College of Science, Chemistry) aim to advance the science and engineering of alkaline membrane fuel cells (AMFCs) by increasing the conductivity and durability of the membranes, in hopes of positioning AMFCs as an attractive alternative to common proton exchange membrane fuel cells.

• Professor Jeremy Michalek (MechE, EPP) and co-PIs Professor Inês Azevedo (EPP) and Assistant Professor Constantine Samaras (CEE) will examine the impact of autonomous taxis and shared mobility services such as Uber and Lyft on energy consumption, vehicle use, and greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions.

• A team of faculty researchers led by Assistant Professor Venkat Viswanathan (MechE) will develop a catalytic approach to improving the long-term stability of lithium-ion batteries by building a bridge between understanding electrocatalytic oxygen evolution and oxygen release in high voltage cathode materials. The aim is to remove obstacles, such as cost and limited storage capacity, that limit electric vehicle adoption.

• Associate Professors Athanasios Karamalidis (CEE) and Newell Washburn (Mellon College of Science, Chemistry) will conduct research to develop a continuously operating, small-scale, field-ready separation system that can be deployed at sites that produce waste water—such as gas operations, geothermal utilities, coal power plant effluents, and more—and extract rare earth elements from the water produced. These elements are necessary for the development of current and next-generation green energy technologies. Funded by EQT Foundation.

• Professor Jay Whitacre (MSE, EPP) and Associate Professor Meagan Mauter (EPP, CEE) will create a Concurrent Assessment and Design of Systems (CADS) platform for assessing the complex intersections between policy, technology, and human responses to system perturbation in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The proposed work balances the need for rapid, quantitative, and intuitive models by hybridizing these existing models into the CADS platform. Funded by EQT Foundation.