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GCEP Student Activities

GCEP Student Energy Lecture Speakers
Schedule, Talk Title and Abstract

All talks will be held from 4:15 - 5:15 unless noted below. Yang & Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building (Y2E2), Room 299, Red Atrium.

* Seminars on July 29 and August 5 will run 5:15 - 6:15 pm.
July 8, 2013
David Urnes Johnson photoDavid Urnes Johnson: Modeling Heat Transfer in a Tubular Carbon Fuel Cell
Carbon fuel cells offer efficient conversion of carbonaceous fuels into electricity while producing a concentrated exhaust stream of CO2 that easily can be stored or sold as a marketable product. In this talk, a comprehensive carbon fuel cell model will be described that takes into account electrochemistry, mass and heat transfer, and carbon bed chemistry of dry gasification. The model is used to map out the operation space for power density and cell efficiency to guide operation and design decisions.

John To PhotoJohn To: Biomimetic Sorbents for Selective CO2 Capture
Mesoporous carbons are promising for CO2 capture due to chemical inertness, low cost, high surface area and tunable pore structures. Its porous structure allows addition of chemical functionality by grafting or impregnation. Amine chemistry tells us that nitrogen functionalization plays an important role in surface chemistry to achieve high CO2 adsorption capacity. To increase the nitrogen content of the adsorbent, nitrogen is incorporated into porous carbon framework and further functionalized with amines.

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July 15, 2013

Mauro Pasta photoMauro Pasta: Open-Framework Crystal Structure Battery Materials for Grid-Scale Energy Storage Applications
New types of energy storage are needed in conjunction with the deployment of solar, wind, and other volatile renewable energy sources and their integration with the electrical grid. We demonstrate a new type of safe, fast, inexpensive, long-cycle life aqueous electrolyte battery. The electrodes in this battery are synthesized in bulk quantities by a room temperature chemical synthesis from earth-abundant precursors and when operated in an appropriate aqueous electrolyte, show extremely long cycle life, fast kinetics, and high efficiency, resulting in a full battery cell that can meet the demands of large scale energy storage.

Etosha Cave photoEtosha Cave: CO2 electroreduction on metal surfaces
Hydrocarbons and alcohols can be made from the electroreduction of CO2 and water on metal surfaces. These chemicals are synthesized at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, and can be directly coupled to intermittent power sources such as solar or wind. This talk will 1) give an overview of the products created during CO2 electro-reduction on the metals studied in our lab, 2) discuss trends in the data and 3) identify possible mechanistic pathways.

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July 22, 2013

Reza Haghpanah photoReza Haghpanah: Post-Combustion CO2 Capture by Adsorption Processes
Adsorption has been reported to be candidate for CO2 capture from point sources such as power and chemical plants. Conventional adsorption processes have been designed and optimized for the purification of the light gas. However, in carbon capture, the challenge is to recover the heavier product, i.e., CO2 in high purity. This requires novel cycles that incorporate different steps for extract enrichment. In this work, we have systematically analyzed pressure vacuum swing adsorption (PVSA)/vacuum swing adsorption (VSA) cycles with zeolite 13X as the adsorbent to capture CO2 from dry, post-combustion flue gas containing 15% CO2 in N2. We have performed optimization calculations of PVSA/VSA processes to identify operating conditions at which the purity and recovery demands can be met, and to provide the energy penalty and productivity of a given process.

Sunil Sandhu photoSunil Sandhu: Detailed Balance Analysis and Enhancement of Open Circuit Voltage in Nanophotonic Solar Cells
We present a detailed balance based approach for performing current density-voltage characteristic modeling of nanophotonic solar cells. This approach takes into account the intrinsic material non-idealities, and is useful for determining the theoretical limit of solar cell eciency for a given structure. Our approach only requires the cell's absorption spectra over all angles, which can be readily calculated using available simulation tools. Using this approach, we elucidate the physics of open-circuit voltage enhancement over bulk cells in nanoscale thin film structures, by showing that the enhancement is related to the absorption suppression in the immediate spectral region above the bandgap. We also show that with proper design, the use of a grating on a nanoscale thin film can increase its short-circuit current, while preserving its voltage-enhancing capabilities.

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July 29, 2013 *

Ann Lesnefsky photo Ann Lesnefsky: Feeding 'Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans' Electricity:
Transferring Electrons by Direct Electrode Contact vs. Iron Shuttling

Abstract: Fuel cells that reduce CO2 into an organic product using alternative energy sources are being investigated as a carbon neutral process to store energy and produce organic commodity chemicals. One such process is Bioelectrosynthesis (BES) where certain microbes have been shown to use cathodic electrons and atmospheric CO2 to produce small organic molecules. However, the mechanism of electron transfer from the cathode to the microorganism is not yet fully understood. The current study investigates Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans ATCC 23270 as a microbial platform to take up electrons from a graphite cathode with and without iron as a mediator for efficient electron shuttling. In the presence of 2 mM iron A. ferrooxidans was able to grow sustainably using cathodic electrons, oxygen and atmospheric CO2. This talk will discuss the molecular and cellular basis for developing A. ferrooxidans as a useful microbial platform for efficient Bioelectrosynthesis.

Ming Gong photoMing Gong: Ni-based layered double hydroxide/carbon nanotube hybrid material for energy storage
Abstract: High-performance, low-cost and environmentally friendly batteries are important to portable electronics and electric vehicles. Novel ultrafast NiZn batteries and high-performance Zn-air batteries were developed by coupling Ni-based layered double hydroxide nanoplates and highly conductive carbon nanotube network.

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August 5, 2013 *

Andrew Scheuermann photoAndrew Scheuermann: Atomic Layer Deposited Tunnel Oxides to Protect Silicon Photoanodes for Electrochemical Water-Splitting
Abstract: Overcoming the intermittency of solar radiation using energy storage methods is a major challenge for adoption of solar energy at very large scale and synthesis of fuels from sunlight is one potential storage approach. High quality ultrathin tunnel oxides are now being developed that enable both highly efficient and stable silicon photoanodes for electrochemical water-splitting. Recent work has focused on the generalizability of this approach using an array of catalyst materials and understanding the conduction mechanism through oxides of varying thickness.

Joey Nelsen photoJoey Nelsen: Pore size dependent geochemistry: enhanced adsorption of aqueous transition metals in mesopores
Abstract: Enhanced oil recovery and CO2-sequestration induce changes in the chemical composition of the subsurface and may alter the dominant geochemical processes occurring at mineral surfaces. Mesopores (2-50 nm) often contribute significantly to the total specific surface area and act as gateways between mineral surfaces and ambient fluids for solutes, including nutrients and contaminants. However, the effects of mesoscale confinement on geochemistry are largely unexplored. Herein, experimental sorption studies are employed to systematically investigate physiochemical reactions with respect to mesopore size.

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August 12, 2013

Hari Mantripragada Photo Hari Chandan Mantripragada: Techno-economic Evaluation of Novel CO2 Capture Technologies using the Integrated Environmental Control Model (IECM).
Abstract: The Integrated Environmental Control Model (IECM) is a publicly available desktop/laptop computer model developed at Carnegie Mellon University for DoE/NETL ( This talk aims at demonstrating the utility of IECM for conducting systematic techno-economic assessments and quantifying uncertainties in key technical and financial parameters, for power plants with CO2 capture options. As case study, a pre-combustion chemical looping combustion based CO2 capture from an IGCC power plant is chosen and compared with the conventional Selexol-based CO2 capture technology. The ongoing effort to incorporate novel CO2 capture technologies such as ionic liquids (ILs) and metal organic frameworks (MOFs) will also be discussed.
Yangsen Kang photoYangsen Kang: High Efficiency Nano-Structured III-V Solar Cells
Abstract: Nanostructures have been widely applied to solar cells for antireflection coatings, light trapping absorbers, core-shell radial p-n junctions, back reflectors, etc. These devices have demonstrated enhanced short circuit current density (Jsc) due to advanced antireflection and light trapping effects, however, nanostructures also increase the surface area and the number of defects, which results in lower open circuit voltage (Voc), fill factor (FF) and efficiency. Here we demonstrate the application of a centimeter-scale array of nanocones on an AlGaAs window layer GaAs solar cell, resulting in a high Voc (~ 1V) and a high Jsc (24.4 mA/cm2), leading to a 17.0 % energy conversion efficiency.

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