We are thrilled to announce the 2018 JCDREAM Seed Grant Awardees. The winners come from a range of institutions throughout the state of Washington. Their projects cover earth-abundant materials science from a variety of angles. We look forward to seeing the results of their research.

1. Elucidating the Roles of Electric Fields in Catalysis

This team plans to significantly advance the field of plasma physics through cross-disciplinary research to address the plasma-material interface, by specifically leveraging advances in simulation capabilities and experimental techniques. An outcome of the resulting model could then be used to simulate the interaction of hydrogen with a metal surface in the presence of an oscillating electric field, which is a problem that is of interest to the semiconductor industry since metal surfaces, such as tin, are often exposed toa laser which induces a plasma at the gas-solid interface. Insight into the plasma-material interface could also have an impact on the field of heterogeneous catalysis.

The group also plans to computationally determine whether the presence of an external electric field can modify the catalytic properties of an earth abundant material so as to efficiently convert CO2 into value-added products.

Principal Investigator: Jean-Sabin McEwen | Washington State University

Principal Investigator: Su Ha | Washington State University

2. High-Performance Ni-Fe Nanofoam Electrolyzer for Water Splitting

Accommodating the unpredictable and intermittent nature of renewable energy requires efficient energy storage and conversion devices. One of the most promising solutions is to convert the renewably generated electricity into fuels, such as hydrogen, methane, and ethanol. Electrolysis of water is considered as an easy and clean method to obtain hydrogen. Oxygen evolution reaction (OER), however, as one of the two important reactions (hydrogen evolution reaction as the other part) involved in electrolysis, is the bottleneck for practical water splitting applications. The sluggish kinetics and large overpotential of the OER make it imperative to search for high-performance electrocatalysts.  

Typical catalysts are made from very expensive and rare metals that have proved difficult to boost the performance of. This project created an innovative catalyst made with low cost and naturally abundant elements (nickel and iron), which shows far superior catalytic activity and stability during long-term operation. In addition, the improved cost-effectiveness of the catalysts will be a strong incentive for a vast implementation of water electrolysis technologies, which currently share only 3% of the hydrogen production market.

Principal Investigator: Yuehe Lin, PhD | Washington State University, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

3. FTIR (Infrared Spectroscopy)

The purpose of acquiring this equipment is to support both undergraduate curricula and research in materials. Current research efforts include a multi-year JCATI-sponsored project on Gr/Ep recycling. This has expanded from mechanical breakdown of the cured material to pyrolyzing as a means of dissociating the fibers. The FTIR is envisioned to characterize the matrix and help quantify the process. Further research is planned to investigate fire-resistant coatings for propulsion system applications, and still another in the aircraft cabin development area. Other research areas to explore include bonded sand development for foundry applications.

Principal Investigator: Craig Johnson, PhD, PE | Central Washington University

4. Multi-Media Backpacks

Good ideas, great science, and innovation can die if not promoted. The message needs to be heard. This proposal will build a media lab at WSU Everett to help promote through video, content creation and digital messaging the important work being done in the various fields of conservation, environmental science, and specifically JCDREAM projects. The Media Lab will also serve as a training ground for students of different disciplines in the digital and visual communication techniques required in today’s marketplace.

The Media Lab will be dedicated to promoting clean energy, technology, transportation technologies, STEM innovations, and environmentally sound business practices. It will facilitate and promote multi-institution collaborations and the environmentally responsible, specific goals of JCDREAM.

Principal Investigator: Lucrezia Paxson | Washington State University Everett, Murrow College of Communications

5. Assessing Community and Technical College Education on Clean Energy and Earth Abundant Materials in Washington State

This project will increase the knowledge and awareness of clean energy, clean technologies, earth-abundant, and advanced materials among instructors in Washington State’s community and technical colleges. In addition, areas of opportunities for outreach and engagement on these topics will be identified. The information will be valuable in applying for future funding opportunities to expand clean energy and technology education in Washington State.    

A short electronic survey was sent to the instructors of relevant courses to assess four areas related to the topics of clean technologies and earth-abundant materials: 1) how the topics are integrated into courses, 2) challenges in teaching on these topics, 3) whether students learn any manufacturing skillsets related to these topics, and 4) needs to expand these topics into courses Relevant instructors and faculty from at least five community and technical colleges were selected for follow-up interviews.

The project culminated in a report on status of clean energy, clean technology, earth-abundant materials, and material recycling education in Washington State community and technical colleges. 

Principal Investigator: Patricia Townsend | Washington State University Extension

Principal Investigator: Jason Selwitz | Walla Walla Community College

6. Exploration of New Collaboration in Efficient and Practical Solar Fuels Production Using Earth Abundant Materials

This project will address the feasibility of a three-way collaboration to explore both components of the solar fuels production prototype – LSC-PV modules tuned for delivering stoichiometric quantities of photons and charge carriers, and photo- and photoelectrochemical catalytic conversion with catalyst materials matched to the LSC. The collaborating faculty will investigate the fundamental science underlying efficient use of solar energy for methanol production from CO2. They will study a new approach for making more practical and efficient use of the solar spectrum for this reaction by combining luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) and photovoltaic (PV) cells to harvest sunlight and remotely drive high-intensity photo- and photoelectrochemical reactors incorporating earth-abundant catalysts. Existing catalysts are most often comprised of high-cost precious metals (Pt, Ir) dispersed as nanoparticles on the surface of a photo-active metal oxide, such as titania (TiO2). In the proposed work, the investigators will initiate a new collaboration with the aim of using solar photons harvested from state-of-the-art LSC-PV modules to drive chemical reactions over a new class of photocatalysts based on earth-abundant metal phosphides.

Principal Investigator: Mark Bussell, PhD | Western Washington University

Principal Investigator: David Patrick, PhD | Western Washington University

Principal Investigator: Brandi Cossairt, PhD | Western Washington University

7. Probe Sonication System for Printable, Earth-Abundant Functional Inks

Scalable fabrication of printed electronics and clean energy technologies represents a low-cost, high-throughput manufacturing practice with a reduced environmental footprint. The precise formulation of printable inks comprised of functional, earth-abundant nanomaterials dispersed in a solvent is essential to fabricating reproducible, high-performing devices. Agglomerates of these nanomaterials typically must be disaggregated to form stable, printable dispersions via sonication. A probe sonicator enables more vigorous and effective disaggregation because the probe delivers ultrasonic waves directly into the ink.

Principal Investigator: Professor J. Devin MacKenzie | University of Washington, Materials Science and Engineering

Principal Investigator: Michael R. Crump | University of Washington, Materials Science and Engineering

8. Performance Scale-up of Novel, Silica-Based Ion Exchange Membranes

Membrion utilizes earth-abundant silica to create high-performance, ultra-low-cost ion exchange membranes critical to technologies in clean energy and water applications. Membrion’s silica-based membranes are nearly 100% recyclable, generate only sewerable waste streams (i.e., salt, sand & water), can be produced at 1/8th the manufacturing cost of typical ion exchange membranes and have the same or better performance as their perfluorocarbon-based predecessors

This seed grant will fund the physical scale-up and testing of key performance metrics for ceramic ion exchange membranes in collaboration with experts at the University of Washington Clean Energy Testbeds.

Principal Investigator: Greg Newbloom | Membrion

9. Utilization of Earth-Abundant Aluminum Waste Products

Highly alkaline aluminum-rich wastes are the abundant end-products of aluminum mining, with current estimates of the tailings exceed 150 million tons. The enormous scale of the waste streams presents an opportunity for environmental remediation and reuse, as part of a worldwide response to which billions of dollars are currently devoted. Efforts are underway to divert these tailings for reprocessing into valuable commodities, including construction materials, soil amendments, and as source materials for rare and valuable elements. These recovered materials are of great interest to the transportation and renewable energy sectors, among others. In particular, unprecedented growth is expected in the use of aluminum for lightweight automobiles.

This seed grant will support the research into direct measurements and modeling of geochemical data relevant to the deployment of process technologies that facilitate clean-up, extraction, and reprocessing efforts.

Principal Investigator: John McCloy, PhD | Washington State University, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

10. Microscopy Enhanced Tensile for Characterization of Earth Abundant Corrosion Inhibiting Coatings

Principal Investigator: Colin Merriman | Washington State University

11. Advanced Characterization of Novel Silicon-Carbon Materials to Replace Graphite in Lithium-Ion Batteries

Group14 Technologies has developed a breakthrough Li-ion anode material and is exploring paths to commercialization. This technology was developed under a grant from the Department of Energy and has been validated by DOE experts. Multiple potential customers and partners have also validated outstanding material performance. This material enables significantly higher energy density (20-30% Improvement) than typical anode materials and will deliver a cost below current anode materials on a $/Ah basis. These higher energy-density, lower cost anode materials will reduce the overall $/kWh by as much as 30%.

Group14 will collaborate with PNNL’s Advanced Battery Facility to complete pilot production of 36 1+Ah battery cells optimized for higher energy density and stability.  Group14’s advanced anode will be matched with high-performance cathode from PNNL.  A selection of completed cells will be tested in collaboration with the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Testbeds.  The objective of the cell evaluation is to confirm a minimum 20% improvement in energy density and at least 500 cycle stability.

Principal Investigator: Min-Kyu Song | Washington State University

Principal Investigator: Aaron Feaver, PhD | Group14 Technologies

12. Development of Advanced Energy Storage Systems and Future Engineers via Earth-Abundant Materials and X-ray Nano Computed Tomography

The U.S. will reach ~1 million sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) each year by 2024. Recharging one million PEVs every night will cast enormous demands on the nation’s electrical grid, while the increased use of intermittent energy sources (e.g. winds) in the State of Washington will challenge the grid’s reliability to provide stable electrical energy. These challenges can be only addressed through the development of advanced energy storage systems and next-generation engineers.

To develop scientific tools for cross-cutting research and to advance the manufacturing technologies of materials used in clean energy technologies, the PI purchased a new workstation and software that can fully leverage the state-of-the-art, high-resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) at WSU. The new setup will allow researchers to perform non-destructive 3D nanoscale imaging down to 50-nm spatial resolution, as well as virtual cross-sectioning and quantitative analysis of 3D volumes (including local pore space and internal defects like voids) that are not possible using typical 2D SEM and TEM techniques. While the focus of this seed project is porous silicon, X-ray Nano CT can be applied to other critical material systems.

Principal Investigator: Min-Kyu Song | Washington State University

13. The JCDREAM/Washington Battery Data Corpus

High energy density lithium-ion battery chemistries typically use cobalt in the positive electrode, much of which is mined with unsustainable and inhumane methods. As a result, there is a push to reduce or eliminate cobalt from next-generation batteries, while maintaining comparable or improved battery performance. The Washington Battery data corpus works to achieve next generation ultra-low or no-cobalt chemistries by developing a comprehensive benchmark dataset based on today’s commercialized LiNMC chemistries; this data will enable statistically-sound accelerated performance and degradation testing.

This JCDREAM funded dataset will enable further machine-learning driven analyses and tool development that can promote innovation. As an open-source dataset, researchers across the state of Washington will be free to use this data in future grant and funding opportunities. 

Principal Investigator: Dan Schwartz | University of Washington, Department of Chemical Engineering

Principal Investigator: Erica Eggleton | University of Washington, Department of Chemical Engineering

Principal Investigator: Victor Hu | University of Washington, Department of Chemical Engineering

Principal Investigator: Linnette Teo | University of Washington, Department of Chemical Engineering