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Addy funds awarded to Princeton faculty

May 17, 2012

The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment has awarded funding for five research projects through the Addy/ISN North American Low Carbon Emission Energy Self-Sufficiency Fund. The recipients will receive up to $100,000 for a year-long research project. Research topics include Mg-ion batteries, iron catalysts for hydrogen generation, optimization of algal biofuels, renewable hydrogen for fuel cells, and battery storage of solar and wind power.

Craig Arnold

Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Acting Director, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials

Title: Metal-organic framework composite electrodes: An avenue toward realizing Mg-ion battery systems.
Abstract: Although lithium-ion batteries have garnered great attention for their potential use in automobile or grid level storage, significant issues related to cost, safety, and geographic availability of the raw materials makes large-scale implementation for these applications challenging. In contrast, magnesium (Mg) is an abundant alternative to lithium metal and has shown promise in secondary battery systems. However, commercial implementation of such systems has lagged due to a number of technical challenges in producing quality electrode materials with the desired properties. This project seeks to develop a new class of low-cost and scalable composite electrode materials with high electronic conductivity and the potential to provide rapid ionic transport through a tunable and highly porous nanoscale architecture. In tackling these key challenges for Mg-ion positive electrodes, this research can open the door to new types of high-density, non-lithium based battery systems for use in large-scale energy storage.


Jay Benziger

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Title: Flow battery energy storage for solar and wind power.
Abstract: Technology coupling of solar and wind energy sources to the power grid is limited by the availability of suitable energy storage technology. Vanadium flow batteries (VFBs), which separate the energy storage and power delivery, are a promising technology to load level intermittent renewable energy sources. However, the current densities for charging and discharging VFBs are too low for the technology to be commercially viable. We are developing model VFBs to develop more effective flow fields and porous electrodes that will improve the current densities in VFBs. Simple flow battery designs are employed to elucidate the fundamental physics of convective and diffusive transport in flow channels and porous electrodes. The fundamental understanding of flow in the model systems will facilitate design of commercially viable flow batteries.


Paul Chirik

Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry

Title: Modern alchemy for carbon neutrality.
Abstract: The North American energy and carbon emissions problem is a challenge for molecular chemistry. The implementation of carbon neutral fuels, such as hydrogen, requires the development of new catalysts for H2 synthesis, storage and efficient consumption. Current catalyst technology principally relies on precious elements with low terrestrial abundance such as ruthenium, iridium and platinum. Any scalable solution requires catalysts based on inexpensive earth abundant metals such as iron. The challenge is “transmuting” the electronic structure and thermodynamic potentials of these first row metals in order to mimic or even surpass the performance of their second and third row counterparts. This version of “modern alchemy” is the focus of this proposal. Specifically, the discovery of iron catalysts for the generation of hydrogen from formic acid, hydrogenation of C02 and water reduction is targeted.


Meytal Higgins

Associate Research Scholar, Geosciences

Joshua Rabinowitz

Professor of Chemistry and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

Title: Metabolomics as a tool for optimization of algal biofuel production.
Abstract: The deleterious environmental and economic effects of carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels have incentivized the development of a carbon neutral, renewable fuel portfolio that can continue to drive economic growth in North America. Transportation fuels carry the additional problems of dwindling reserves and geopolitical instability in source regions. An attractive renewable source for liquid fuels is lipids derived from algae. Algae can be induced to generate high lipid quantities (>50% of biomass), and unlike plant-based biofuels, algal lipids can easily be converted to biodiesel, and require less land and no freshwater for production. In order to optimize algal systems for efficient and cost-effective fuel production, the regulation of carbon fluxes and lipid production must be understood in algal cells. We will use isotope labeling and high-resolution HPLC-MS based metabolomics techniques to understand what controls the conversion of C02 to lipids In the genetically-tractable model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Recent advances in metabolomics have led to fundamental discoveries In biomedicine and novel understanding of the regulation of well-established biochemical pathways. Metabolomics will be combined with new techniques in lipidomics to measure carbon fluxes in wild-type and mutant cells which overproduce lipids to understand the natural regulation of these pathways in order to enable their further manipulations. New understanding of Chlamydomonas biochemistry can be combined with algal bio-prospecting and bioengineering efforts to develop the ideal portfolio of algae for biodiesel production.


Bruce Koel

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Title:  Photochemistry at hematite surfaces for production of renewable hydrogen.
Abstract: Industry consumes vast amounts of hydrogen, which is commonly produced by steam reforming of methane, in which natural gas or methane is reacted with water at high temperatures over a catalyst to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen, followed by water-gas shift catalysis to produce carbon dioxide and additional hydrogen. In addition, small-scale steam methane reforming units are often discussed as distributed sources that could provide local supplies of hydrogen for fuel cells. Development of technology for generating renewable hydrogen from photocatalytic water splitting would contribute significantly to meeting the energy and self-sufficiency needs of the U.S., but progress is limited by the lack of efficient and cheap photocatalysts. We propose to address this limitation by developing the necessary fundamental understanding of the active sites and key intermediates responsible for redox reactions, and of the rate determining steps, which is needed to design and synthesize improved photocatalysts for hydrogen production. Our work will utilize atomic level surface characterization and in-situ studies of photochemical reactions in solution for hematite (Fe2O3) based materials, which have been shown to have promise as photocatalysts for water splitting. Advanced catalysts will enable significant reductions in CO2 emissions during hydrogen production and address a critical need for energy self-sufficiency by the production of renewable hydrogen.