Highlight Seminar Series: Debra Rolison, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Date: December 10, 2012
Location: Computer Science 104
Time: 4:30 pm -

Dr. Debra Rolison, a physical chemist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, will speak on the topic of “Enhancing Electrochemical Energy Storage on the Macroscale via Architectural Design on the Nanoscale” as part of the 2012-2013 Highlight Seminar Series.

Rolison heads the Advanced Electrochemical Materials section at the NRL, where her research focuses on multifunctional nanoarchitectures for such rate-critical applications as catalysis, energy storage and conversion, and sensors.  She is also an Adjunct Full Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah (2000–present).  She was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University (1972–1975) and received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1980).  Rolison is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Women in Science, the Materials Research Society, and the American Chemical Society and received the 2011 ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials, the 2011 Hillebrand Prize of the Chemical Society of Washington, and the 2012 Charles N. Reilley Award of the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry.  Her editorial advisory board service includes Analytical Chemistry, Langmuir, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Advanced Energy Materials, Nano Letters, the Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and Annual Review in Analytical Chemistry.  When not otherwise bringing the importance of nothing and disorder to materials chemistry, Rolison writes and lectures widely on issues affecting women (and men!) in science, including proposing Title IX assessments of science and engineering departments.  She is the author of over 200 articles and holds 24 patents.

Any future success in the global effort to shift energy usage away from fossil fuels will rely on energy storage in batteries and electrochemical capacitors (ECs).  A marked improvement in the performance of these power sources is critical for this effort, yet both are mature technologies that have always disregarded Moore’s Law [1,2].  Improved performance requires redesigning the reaction interphases in which the fundamental processes that store energy in batteries and ECs occur.  Energy researchers are now rethinking the requisite multifunction―mass and charge transport, electronic and ionic conductivity, and electron-transfer kinetics―in light of nanoscience and architectural design in three dimensions [3–5].  The design and fabrication of size- and energy-scalable three-dimensional multifunctional architectures from the appropriate nanoscale building blocks for chemical, physical, and physicochemical charge storage will be highlighted, including the use of “nothing” (void space) and deliberate disorder as design components [6].  We currently build energy-storage devices using carbon aerogel-like nanofoam papers [7], which balance such critical architectural features as: (1) open, three-dimensionally interconnected macropores sized at 100–300-nm (a difficult-to-obtain size range in porous carbons) and (2) ~20-nm pore walls (a size that reduces dead weight and volume), while retaining mechanical strength and flexibility without compromising electronic conductivity (preferably greater than 20 S cm–1).  Our work with carbon nanofoams revisits what was known about fabric- and paper-supported aerogels to create a new, low-cost, and scalable nanocomposite that exists within a “Goldilocks zone” of desirable properties for the redesign of energy-storage devices.