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Advanced Energy Materials Research Group


Current Funded Research Projects

1. High-Throughput Computational Guided Development of Refractory Complex Concentrated Alloys-based Composite

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – ARPA-E ULTIMATE Program

Partners: National Energy Technology Lab, Laidos, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Advanced Manufacturing LLC.

West Virginia University (WVU) will develop a new class of ultra-high temperature Refractory Complex Concentrated Alloys-based Composites (RCCC) for high temperature applications such as combustion turbines used in the aerospace and energy industries. The RCCC will consist of Refractory Complex Concentrated Alloys (RCCA) mixed with nanosized particles of Refractory High Entropy Carbides, to increase RCCA strength to withstand extreme conditions. The goal is to optimize the balance among strength, creep (deformation), density, and stability at 1300 °C (2372 °F), while maintaining ductility (malleability) once the alloy cools to room temperature. The research team will develop a specialty 3-D metal printing process to produce test coupons and potentially components such as turbine blades.

2. High Temperature Electrochemical Sensors for In-situ Corrosion Monitoring in Coal-Based Power Generation Boilers

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Advanced Combustion Program

Partners: Aspinity, Longview Power, LLC

In 2015, researchers demonstrated a first-of-a-kind, wireless, self-powered, in-situ sensor for measuring hot corrosion on the fire side of a pilot combustion system using coal-derived flue gas. The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy under the award DE-FE000517. The prototype validated the concept that an electrochemically active sensor could yield accurate data about the corrosion of key components that occurs in the harsh, ash-laden, high temperature environment found in coal-fired boilers. The pilot scale tests of the novel, three-electrode, electrochemical prototype sensor allowed us to reach TRL-6, and provided sufficient data to support the planning and design of a commercial scale sensor.

The primary objectives of this project are (1) to validate the effectiveness of our pervious electrochemical sensor for high temperature (HT) corrosion in coal-based power generation boilers; (2) to optimize our HT sensor (current in technology readiness level (TRL) 6 to reach TRL-8, and (3) to develop a pathway toward commercialization of such technology.

3. Additively Manufactured Graded Composite Transition Joints for Dissimilar Metal Weldments in Advanced Ultra-Supercritical Power Plant

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Crosscutting Program

Partners: Oak Ridge National Lab, GE Steam Power, GE Gas, GE Research, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Haynes International, Southwest Research Institute.

The objectives of this Phase I project are (1) to develop and demonstrate at the lab-scale the additively manufactured graded composite transition joints (AM-GCTJ) for dissimilar metal weldments (DMW) in next generation advanced ultra-supercritial (A-USC) coal-fired power plants, that can significantly improve the microstructural stability, creep and thermal-mechanical fatigue resistance, as compared with their conventional counterparts;  and (2) to prepare for Phase II of the project, in which we will manufacture and test the components with AM-GCTJ, to advance the technology readiness level to TRL-7, and manufacturing readiness level to MRL 6-7, for targeted commercial applications identified by GE Steam Power, the primary industry partner of the project team.

4. High-Entropy Alloy-based Coatings to Protect Critical Components in Hydrogen Turbine Power System

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office

Partners:, Praxair, a Linde Company, National Energy Technology Laboratory

The objective of the project is to develop a new class of aluminum-containing, high-entropy alloy coatings, with and without a thermal barrier layer, that will protect critical components in hydrogen combustion systems for clean electric power generation. The coatings will form an alumina scale layer that will extend the life of critical turbine components in the harsher, higher temperature, more corrosive environment expected in hydrogen combustion systems. The new coatings in hydrogen combustion environments will perform the same as, or better than, coatings used today to protect turbine components in natural gas combustion power generation systems.

5. Metal Supported Proton Conducting Solid Oxide Fuel Cell for Direct Ammonia Utilization

Funding Source: U.S. A.I.D. – National Academy of Science

Partner: Mansoura University (Egypt).

One of the most important challenges is producing energy from clean, renewable, durable and economically feasible sources. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) meet these goals. Ammonia, especially synthesized from the renewable energy, emerged as an efficient fuel and/or hydrogen carrier for SOFCs because as 1 mole of ammonia produces 1.5 mole of hydrogen via the thermal catalytic decomposition. In the case of metal supported SOFC the conventional Ni-YSZ anode support is replaced by a metal (usually stainless steel). Subsequently this will enhance the robustness of SOFCs, improves thermal shock resistance, reduces temperature gradients due to the greater thermal conductivity of the metal, and enables conventional metal joining. Therefore, this project is dedicated to engineering a novel fuel electrode for metal supported SOFC fueled by ammonia. The ammonia utilization over anode follows two‒step process; NH 3 is catalytically decomposed to H 2 and N 2 and then H 2 produced is electrochemically oxidized over anode. To achieve this purpose, different catalysts will be prepared and loaded to ferrictic stainless steel foam by wash-coat deposition technique. Subsequently, the reactivity for ammonia decomposition over metal foam and different catalyst/metal foam will be investigated. Metal supported SOFC will be fabricated employing catalyst/metal foam as a metal support and catalyst layer. Then, anode cermet, electrolyte and cathode will be screen printed over metal support. The cell performance will be investigated in NH 3 and H 2. The objectives for this project are, studying the performance of metal supported SOFC in NH 3 fuel and lowering the operating temperature for direct NH 3–fueled SOFC. The results that will be obtained from this project is very important because date for NH 3 fueled–metal supported SOFC is not covered.

6. Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Electrode Engineering - Modeling and Testing

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – National Energy Technology Lab through Laidos Research Support Team

Partners: NETL-Laidos SOFC Team

Electrode engineering is critical to reducing costs and improving performance of commercial SOFC products. A successful electrode engineering effort will be expanded upon to focus on the development and characterization of advanced novel materials that can improve SOFC function. Developments are critical for introducing SOFC on the grid, potentially coupled with other energy producing technologies to modernize power production and distribution methods. Successful developments will be directly transferred to industry

Electrode Engineering – Reaction and Transport Models: The steady state 3D reaction and transport physics model describes the local operational state in terms of temperature, species concentrations (including solid state species), and overpotential. Cathode and anode reaction models describing the oxygen reduction reaction mechanism for conventional and new SOFC materials will either be developed from fundamental principles or adapted from existing models. Models will be created for physical fidelity and optimized to support high speed computations. Model predictions will be verified by experiment. A specific effort will also be devoted to transfer of the modeling code for execution on a high-power supercomputing cluster, initially as a pseudo-parallel computational effort, but eventually in a true-parallel scheme.

Electrode Engineering – Electrochemical Testing of SOFC Materials: Experimental evaluation of impedance on symmetric and anode-supported fuel cells. Test conditions will be controlled to permit exploration of the operational performance as a function of temperature, chemical potential, electrode overpotential, and electrode structure/composition.

7. Intermediate Temperature Proton-Conducting Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells with Improved Performance and Durability

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program

Partners: Colorado School of Mines, National Renewable Energy Lab, Idaho National Lab, Sandia National Lab

The team will develop proton-conducting solid oxide electrolysis cells (H-SOECs) that will operate at >1.0 A/cm2 with voltages < 1.4 V/cell at or below 600 °C which will enable operational lifetimes over 40,000 h. The team will identify highly active, triple-conducting electrocatalysts and develop conformal coating methods for depositing these catalysts into composite anode functional layers to lower the dominant anode polarization resistance (Rp,anode) associated with water-splitting in H-SOECs. A significant challenge for the project lies in the identification of appropriate electrocatalyst compositions for reducing Rp,anode and then developing the fabrication methodology for incorporating the proposed surface coatings into the anode functional layers. Reducing polarization resistance will extend the active area of the anode from the surface into the bulk, maximizing conduction of protons and thus effectively splitting water.

8. New High-Entropy Perovskite Oxides with Increased Reducibility and Stability for Thermo-chemical Hydrogen Generation

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program

Partners: University of California - San Diego, Brown University, National Renewable Energy Lab, Sandia National Lab

This project will design, synthesize and test a transformative class of High-Entropy Perovskite Oxides (HEPOs) as redox oxides to enable solar thermochemical hydrogen (STCH) generation with improved stability, kinetics and efficiency. These HEPOs are expected to demonstrate improved kinetics with oxygen surface exchange coefficient (k ≥ 7.5×10-4 cm/s) in Year 1, retain its structural stability in a broad range of oxygen nonstoichiometry (Δδ ≥ 0.15) at a low operating reduction temperature of Tred < 1400°C in Year 2, and deliver a H2 yield of over 400 µmol per gram oxide and high stability with less than 20% degradation after at least 100 cycles in Year 3. This proposed project is feasible due to the unique thermodynamic properties (simultaneously increased reducibility and phase stability) and kinetic characters (stability against particle coarsening and enhanced oxygen transport and surface reaction kinetics) of such HEPOs, and it is enabled by a unique active learning computational design approach.

9. Reversible SOFC-SOEC Stacks Based on Stable Rare-Earth Nickelate Oxygen Electrodes

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Program

Partners: Saint Gobain, Boston University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Gaia Energy Research Institute

This is a three-year project to develop and evaluate novel nickelate based oxygen electrodes which show potential for high performance and durability in both electrolysis and fuel cell operational modes. To improve the overall durability of the stack, the hydrogen electrode will also need to be optimized and a stable nickelate – metal interconnect interface will need to be developed. Cells with the optimized materials, microstructure, and interfaces will be scaled to short stacks. These stacks will be tested for their performance in both Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) and Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) modes as well as their ability to withstand mode switching.

10. Heterostructured Cr Resistant Oxygen Electrode for SOECs

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Program

Partners: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The principal objective of this project is to design an Ruddlesden-Popper Phase oxygen electrode material for Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells (SOECs) through a computationally guided approach, which is resistant to compositional and phase changes, and to performance degradation, in the operation conditions with the presence of chromium (Cr)-containing gas impurities. When fully optimized, this oxygen electrode material will have an INTRINSIC long-term degradation rate of less than 0.3%/1000 hrs at 700C.

11. Economically Viable Intermediate to Long Duration Hydrogen Energy Storage Solutions for Fossil Fueled Assets

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Energy Storage Program

Partners:, WE New Energy Inc. (Dr. Zhili Feng, PI), WVU (Prof. Debangsu Bhattacharyya)

We will design and engineer a cost-effective hydrogen energy storage prototype to synergistically integrate with existing or new coal- and gas-fueled electricity generating units (EGUs). A synergistically integrated hydrogen energy storage system would enable EGUs to operate at optimal baseload conditions via a sufficiently large hydrogen energy storage system to manage the dynamic changes in electric grid demand and electricity price.

12. A Novel Molten Salt System for CO 2 Based Oxidative Dehydrogenation with Integrated Carbon Capture

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, CCS Program

Partners:, North Carolina State University(Prof. Fanxing Li, PI), WVU (Prof. John Hu), Susteon Inc.

The overarching objective of the proposed research is to develop a comprehensive proof-of-concept for the sustainable and cost-effective production of propionic acid, and value added C3/C4 olefins, from CO 2 in power plant flue gas and domestic shale gas resources. This will be realized via a molten-salt mediated oxidative dehydrogenation (MM-ODH) process that performs reactive CO 2 capture (from power plant flue gas) and CO 2 assisted alkane oxidative dehydrogenation in a two-step, thermochemical scheme. The resulting CO and light olefin (e.g. ethylene from ethane ODH) are subsequently converted into propionic acid via the industrially proven hydrocarboxylation process.

Enabled by the recent breakthroughs in molten-salt mediated ODH in the PI’s research group, the proposed MM-ODH has a number of distinct advantages compared to state-of-the-art CO 2-ODH in terms of: (i) superior CO 2 conversion (up to 90%) and single-pass olefin yield (up to 70%); (ii) ability for integrated CO 2 capture from power plant flue gas; (iii) ability for autothermal operation; (iv) flexibility to convert C2, C3, and C4 alkanes; (v) simple, packed bed operation enabled by molten-salt promoted mixed oxide particles. While propionic acid is the primary target product for this proposal, MM-ODH can also be applied to produce propylene and butadiene from propane and butane as value-added chemical products, while also capturing and splitting CO 2. The ability to produce a variety of high-value chemicals with high market volume and important industrial applications make MM-ODH an excellent choice for efficient and economical CO 2 capture and utilization.

The proposed project aims to significantly advance the MM-ODH technology, readying it for scale up and commercialization. This will be achieved by addressing all the key technical and economic risks remaining including: i. to develop improved, molten salt promoted redox catalyst particles to allow lower operating temperatures and higher olefin and CO yields; ii. to demonstrate long-term chemical/physical stability of the redox catalyst for practical applications; iii. to develop high-fidelity techno-economic-analysis (TEA) and life-cycle-analysis (LCA) models to evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of the proposed process and use the model to guide redox catalyst optimization and commercialization efforts; iv. To comprehensively validate the feasibility and scalability of the MM-ODH technology. Successful completion of the project will debottleneck the remaining challenges for MM-ODH and push it towards practical implementations.

13. Microwave Catalysis for Process Intensified Modular Production of Carbon Nanomaterials from Natural Gas

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Fossil Energy, Natural Gas Program

Partners: Prof. John Hu (PI) of WVU, North Carolina State University, Pacific Northwest National Lab, HQuest, South California Gas.

The objective is to develop a new, low-cost process intensified modular process to directly convert flare gas or stranded gas to carbon nanomaterials and co-product hydrogen (H 2) with high conversion, selectivity, and stability. The proposed project is based on our exciting exploratory research on a patent pending technology for one-step conversion of natural gas without emitting CO 2:

      CH 4  - H 2 + C (CNT, Carbon Fibers)

The proposed technology is based on microwave-enhanced, multifunctional catalytic system to directly convert the light components of stranded natural gas. Specifically, our approach integrates microwave reaction chemistry into the modular reactor design with the goal to achieve energy and capital efficiency comparable or better than large commercial unit operation. It is anticipated that the technology readiness level (TRL) will be increased from TRL 4 to 5.

14. Advanced Manganese Oxide-based Cathode for Rechargeable Aqueous Zinc-ion Batteries

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Energy – Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability, Energy Storage Program

Partner: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The aqueous Zn-ion battery (ZIB) technologies have recently emerged as promising electrical energy storage systems especially for grid-level application, due to their low cost, high safety, low flammability and high eco-efficiency. The Zn-ion battery consists of a zinc metal anode, an aqueous electrolyte and a cathode that is normally composed of Earth-abundant polyvalent cation elements. The ZIB demonstrates significant advantages in terms of the high capacity, large abundance, high safety, nontoxicity and excellent water compatibility of Zn metal, its environmental benignity, low cost, less rigorous manufacturing conditions and good recyclability. It has been estimated that the cost of ZIBs is lower than $65/kWh, much lower than that of current lithium-ion batteries ($300/kWh) and close to that of lead-acid batteries ($48/kWh).[1]  The aqueous ZIB chemistry has been extensively studied in order to achieve high-energy and high-power rechargeable batteries. Early development of rechargeable alkaline Zn-based batteries has been plagued by many issues such as poor Coulombic efficiency and severe capacity fading associated with the Zn electrochemistry in alkaline solutions. Recently, intense research efforts are devoted to the development of rechargeable aqueous ZIBs which can work in mildly acidic or near neutral electrolytes. The issues of Zn anodes encountered in alkaline electrolytes will be significantly alleviated or even eliminated in such slightly acidic or near neutral electrolytes. Unfortunately, despite of relative small ionic radius of Zn 2+  (0.75 Å versus 0.76 Å for Li+), it is still challenging to develop competent cathode materials for intercalation of Zn ions, as the electrostatic interaction between divalent Zn ions and crystal structures of cathode materials is much stronger than that of Li ions. To date, the development of suitable insertion hosts for ZIBs is still in the incipient stage, mainly focusing on three families of materials including manganese oxide, vanadium-based compounds and Prussian blue analogs.

Previous studies revealed that many of manganese oxide hosts experience phase transition and structural transformation from initial structure to layered structure upon Zn-ion insertion especially in a high depth of discharge and subsequently structure collapse of the layered structure. This transition of structure and phase leads to poor cyclability of manganese oxide. It is rationalized that it is a promising solution to directly use the layered manganese oxide (e.g. δ-MnO 2 and cation-birnessite/buserite) intercalated by a guest molecule such as long-chain organic amine and polymer as a cathode for ZIB. In this way, the interlayer distance will be expanded and the guest molecule can strengthen the layered structure, which may facilitate the charge storage, relieve the stress of restructuring and alleviate the structural collapse. We aim to prepare pristine layered manganese oxide and guest molecule-intercalated manganese oxide hosts. Some guest molecules such as conductive polymers and long-chain organic molecules will be utilized to be hybridized with layered manganese oxide.