Highlights

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On April 18, the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy) celebrated the recent accomplishments of energy-related research at Notre Dame with a daylong symposium in the Notre Dame Conference Center at McKenna Hall. 

The event opened with remarks from Peter C. Burns, Henry Massman Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences and director of ND Energy, who gave a brief address on the state of ND Energy.  Burns then introduced keynote speaker Sally M. Benson, co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

In her presentation titled, “The Global Climate and Energy Challenge,” Benson discussed emerging solutions to provide secure, affordable, and sustainable energy for the nine billion people expected on Earth by 2050. She described the challenge of meeting the world’s growing energy needs while also finding ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

Benson highlighted game changers that have brought low carbon and low cost energy, such as natural gas, wind turbines, and photovoltaics. She also looked ahead to new technologies for renewable integration and decarbonizing transportation. Stressing the importance of research and development in the creation of the next generation of energy solutions, Benson concluded that leadership, innovation and persistence are the keys to a sustainable energy future.

Following the keynote presentation, the focus of the symposium shifted to some of the specific research being done at Notre Dame.  Affiliated faculty members who have recently received early career awards took the stage to present their work.  Presentations included:

  • Unprecedented Chain-growth Polymerization Method to Access Structurally Defined Hyperbranched Polymers, Haifeng Gao, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Understanding the Chemical Complexity of Multi-Component Systems: Uranium Polyoxometalates as Nanosorbents, Amy Hixon, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
  • Thermal Transport across Hydrogen-Bonded Hard-Soft Interfaces, Tengfei Luo, Dorini Family Collegiate Associate Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering 
  • Renewable Biocatalysts for Degradation of Persistent Organic Contaminants Using Synthetic Biology, Na Wei, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
  • Fundamental Materials Studies on Fast Ion Diffusion in Model Side-chain Ionomers, Jennifer Schaefer, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Nucleophilic, Radical, and Electrophilic Palladium Carbene Complexes: New Types of Reactivity for Palladium, Vlad Iluc, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

After a break for lunch, 24 associated graduate students and postdoctoral scholars had an opportunity to present their energy-related research at a poster session in the lower level dining room. While all the projects were well-received by the judges, three outstanding posters were recognized.  Award winners were Nick Kempf, Rebecca Scheidt, and Brooke Stemple. Their project titles were:

  • Nick KempfA Robust High-sensitivity Scanning Thermal Probe for Simultaneous Microscale Thermal and Thermoelectric Property Mapping (Zhang Laboratory)
  • Rebecca ScheidtModulation of Charge Recombination in CsPbBr3 Perovskite Films with Electrochemical Bias (Kamat Laboratory)
  • Brooke StempleEnhanced Ionic Liquid Tolerance of Yarrowia Lipolytica Through Evolutionary Engineering for Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation of Lignocellulosic Biomass (Wei Laboratory)

The afternoon session of the symposium focused mainly on the three large-center grants recently awarded to affiliated faculty.  The centers featured were:

  • Engineering Research Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR), William Schneider, H. Clifford and Evelyn A. Brosey Professor of Engineering; Concurrent Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The mission of CISTAR is to create a transformative engineered system to convert light hydrocarbons from shale resources to chemicals and transportation fuels in smaller, modular, local, and highly networked processing plants.
  • Extremely Energy Efficient Collective Electronics (EXCEL), Michael Niemier, Associate Professor, Computer Science and EngineeringThe primary goal of EXCEL involves creating a revolutionary, highly-efficient, general purpose computing platform with neuro-inspired cognitive and learning abilities to address the vast range of future data types and workloads.
  • Actinide Center of Excellence (ACE), Peter C. Burns, Henry Massman Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences; Concurrent Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. This center focuses on research in nuclear chemistry and radioactive materials through the integration of physical experiments and computer simulation enabling advanced experimental activities where students will be trained in key areas of stewardship science.

The inaugural symposium was well attended by faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, and invited guests.  The event not only showcased the wide range of work being conducted through ND Energy, but also provided networking opportunities for researchers to discuss future collaborations on energy projects.

2018 Symposium Photo Album