COVID-19 and the Renewable Energy Impact

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The global pandemic is affecting China’s manufacturing sector, with immediate effects on greenhouse emissions, but the longer-term impact of the slowdown remains to be seen. Anca Gagiuc

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Coronavirus kicks the demand for a Critical Materials Supply Chain into Overdrive

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Aware of the increasing prioritization to secure the supply of 35 recognized critical materials by the U.S. Government, the coronavirus has kicked the sourcing mandate into overdrive. Tracy Weslosky

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JCDREAM Announces 2019 Seed Grant Winners

Categories: Articles, Funded Projects|

We are thrilled to announce the 2019 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. Materials Washington

Materials Washington will be an alliance of community and technical colleges working collaboratively with industry, policymakers, and professional associations to advance Washington’s leadership role in the global materials environment. The collaboration will enhance the competitiveness of Washington’s materials technicians and engineering workforce by providing innovative training and education using materials focused modules and state-of-the-art technology.

This project will use JCDREAM funding to establish the Materials Washington consortium and develop two modules that will become the foundation of future public and professional development opportunities and education and training. The project team plans to use the modules as an avenue to offer professional development opportunities to secondary and post-secondary educators, industry, and other stakeholders.

Principal Investigator: Mel Cossette | National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education, Edmonds Community College

Principal Investigator: Ann Avary | Center of Excellence for Maritime Manufacturing and Technology, Skagit Valley College

Industrial Collaborator: George Parker | Boeing

2. Spectroscopic Ellipsometer

The spectroscopic ellipsometer will be used to determine the optical properties and molecular orientation in organic photovoltaics. Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have enormous potential as an earth-abundant renewable energy technology, but their performance and reproducibility in a scalable manufacturing platform are not yet competitive. The spectroscopic ellipsometer quantitatively measures refractive index and extinction coefficients across the UV-vis-NIR spectral range. From this information, dielectric properties, conductivity, and complex absorbance effects can be extracted. For coatings, film thickness can be accurately measured from sub-monolayer to tens of microns and can even be applied to absorbing materials and multilayered structures.

Principal Investigator: Brian Collins | Washington State University, Department of Materials Science & Engineering

3. Recycling of Aerospace Thermoplastic Composites

The future of sustainable air transport technologies such as electric and short-range aircraft depends on significantly reducing the weight of aerostructures. Light-weighting will require utilization of fewer metallic components and demand further development and adoption of earth-abundant materials like carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites. Thermoplastic composites (TPCs) are an excellent light-weighting solution with superiour impact- and fracture-resistance, but are more expensive and therefore less commonly used. Cost reduction and widespread implementation of TPCs can be realized through recycling of TPC materials. This project will purchase a high temperature compression molding machine to study the properties and processability of recycled TPCs to further reduce the need for critical metallic materials commonly used in aerospace.

Principal Investigator: John Misasi, PhD | Western Washington University, College of Science & Engineering

Industrial Collaborator: Robert Kearney | Boeing

4. Center for Rational Catalyst Synthesis

Catalysis is a hidden but high-impact science at the heart of the energy, chemical and environmental industries. About 20% of the world’s economy depends directly or indirectly on catalysis. Despite their immense importance, the development of new heterogeneous catalysts is still largely empirical, particularly at the stage of synthesis. The Center for Rational Catalyst Synthesis (CeRCaS) is the world’s first and only research center focusing on transforming the art of catalyst preparation into a science.

To date, virtually all commercially employed catalysts are based on rare, precious metals. CeRCaS focuses mainly on the rational design of catalysts using earth-abundant materials. It currently has two nodes with a third in progess. This seed grant will assist in establishing a fourth node at Washington State University focusing on electrocatalysts and emission exhaust catalysts, which are both important in the transportation sector.

Principal Investigator: Jean-Sabin McEwen, PhD | Washington State University, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Principal Investigator: Su Ha, PhD | Washington State University, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Industrial Collaborator: Cynthia Webb | PACCAR

5. Solubility Optimization of Organic Redox Flow Battery Electrolytes

Redox flow batteries (RFB) promise to significantly reduce grid-scale energy storage costs and to accelerate adoption of transient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The vanadium RFB (VRFB) leads in market adoption due to its long-term stability, proven performance and efficiency. Since vanadium is a critical material, the reliability of its supply inhibits VRFBs ability to be deployed at scale. Organic electrolytes, which are synthetically produced from earth-abundant elements, present an alternative for wide-scale deployment of RFBs.

This seed grant will purchase a multi-mode spectrophotometer to be used in combination with an existing cluster of robotic tools to formulate and test ORFB electrolytes based on redox-active organic molecules. It will be used specifically to measure and optimize the solubility and stability of organic redox species in electrolytes at variable conditions.

Principal Investigator: Lilo Pozzo, PhD |University of Washington, School of Chemical Engineering

Principal Investigator: Wei Wang, PhD | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Battery Materials & Systems Group

Industrial Collaborator: Greg Newbloom | Membrion

6. Cycloturbine Research

Modern wind turbines require a great deal of rare earth metals. If the efficiency of turbines can be increased, less rare earth metals will be required to produce the same amount of energy. The WSU Wind Engineering Team is conducting research into cycloturbines, a wind turbine that has a higher theoretical maximum efficiency than traditional horizontal axis wind turbines. Optimization of cycloturbines could result in a 25% deduction in rare earth element usage in wind due to increased efficiency and reduced equipment production.

This seed grant will fund the purchase of an educational wind tunnel for researching cycloturbine performance. The WSU Wind Engineering team is a collaboration between WSU Everett, Everett Community College (EvCC) and the Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center (AMTEC).

Principal Investigator: Gordon Taub, PhD | Washington State University Everett, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Principal Investigator: Joe Graber, MSME | Everett Community College

Industrial Collaborator: Mithra Sankrithi | RIC Enterprises

Electric Vehicle Battery Recycling Solution Crucial to Sustainability

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As the world looks to seriously curb its greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, electric vehicles are seen as one of the best solutions, with new state incentives set to encourage more drivers to make the switch. Samantha Wohlfeil

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NBC News Investigates Child Labor & Unsafe Conditions in Mica Mining Industry

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Mica is the name applied to a group of minerals that form in layers at once flexible and strong. A longtime staple of the cosmetics industry, mica is known for adding sparkle to makeup products and paints. But it’s also prized in the electronics and automotive worlds due to its ability to transmit electric force without overheating, even under extreme temperatures. NBC News reports from the Mica mines of Madagascar, where child labor and unsafe working conditions are the norm. NBC News

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Questions Loom around Sustainability of Cobalt Sourcing in the Congo

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The demand for cobalt continues to grow as companies worldwide keep innovating. Despite the efforts of many organizations to put an end to child labor and unsafe conditions in Congolese cobalt mines, these issues persist. Industry experts expect to see 2020 demand reach 120,000 tons per year. In February 2018, cobalt prices were more than 150 percent higher than the previous year. The Washington Post

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Draft Critical Mineral List—Summary of Methodology and Background Information

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Based on an analysis using multiple criteria explained below, 35 minerals or mineral material groups have been identified that are currently (February 2018) considered critical. Draft Critical Mineral List—Summary of Methodology and Background Information—U.S. Geological Survey Technical Input Document in Response to Secretarial Order No. 3359

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Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply

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Why We Need to Care About Critical Materials

From the Stone Age to the present, mineral commodities have been essential ingredients for building and advancing civilization. Products built with materials derived from mineral resources include homes and office buildings; cars and roads; computers, televisions, and smartphones; and jet fighters and other military hardware needed to defend the Nation. In short, minerals are essential to advance and protect modern society.

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Earth-abundant catalysts for electrochemical and photoelectrochemical water splitting

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Sunlight is by far the most plentiful renewable energy resource, providing Earth with enough power to meet all of humanity’s needs several hundred times over. However, it is both diffuse and intermittent, which presents problems regarding how best to harvest this energy and store it for times when the sun is not shining. This review investigates progress towards such electrocatalysts, with special emphasis on how they might be incorporated into photoelectrocatalytic water-splitting systems and the challenges that remain in developing these devices.

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Review of electrical energy storage technologies, materials and systems: challenges and prospects for large-scale grid storage

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This article provides a comprehensive review of electrical energy storage technologies, materials and systems, and recent advances as well as challenges yet to overcome.

With the explosive growth in intermittent renewable resources and energy demand, it is important to figure out ways to develop suitable electrical energy storage technologies to fully address the widely varying needs for large-scale electrical storage.

Examples of recent success in using earth-abundant materials for other electrochemical energy applications can be found in the paper.

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Life Cycle Assessment of Metals: A Scientific Synthesis

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Life Cycle Assessment of Metals: A Scientific Synthesis. We have assembled extensive information on the cradle-to-gate environmental burdens of 63 metals in their major use forms, and illustrated the interconnectedness of metal production systems. Related cumulative energy use, global warming potential, human health implications and ecosystem damage are estimated by metal life cycle stage (i.e., mining, purification, and refining). Philip Nuss, Matthew J. Eckelman,

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Substitution strategies for reducing the use of rare earths in wind turbines

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Resources Policy Like many other low-carbon energy technologies, wind energy is currently at risk due to potential bottlenecks in its dependence on critical rare earth elements such as Nd, Pr, Dy, and Tb, which are used in permanent magnet synchronous generators.

This paper evaluates up-to-date substitution ideas for meeting a projected estimation of increase in total annual demand for rare earths, which is 1.7 times from 2015 to 2020.

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