Two Stony Brook Researchers Receive Energy Frontier Research Center Awards Totaling $21.75M

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Stony Brook University has received notification from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that two proposals directed by SBU faculty to expand or develop Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) designed to accelerate scientific breakthroughs needed to strengthen U.S. economic leadership and energy security will receive funding totaling $21.75 million.

Esther Takeuchi

Esther Takeuchi

The two Stony Brook EFRCs are the Center for Mesoscale Transport Properties (m2M), led by renowned energy storage researcher, Esther Takeuchi, PhD, which will receive a four-year $12 million grant for the existing center; and the creation of a new EFRC, A Next Generation Synthesis Center (GENESIS) led by John Parise, PhD, which will receive a four-year $9.75 million grant.

The awards are part of the DOE’s announcement of $100 million to fund 42 EFRCs; Stony Brook University is one of only three universities to receive funding for two EFRCs. The two EFRC awards will also receive $1.75 million in New York State matching funds:  New York Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) of the Empire State Development will fund both m2M and GENESIS, and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will provide additional funds to m2M. Also, another $1.7 million for both EFRC awards has been committed through institutional support.

“Finding new ways to harness and use energy more efficiently remains a global concern, and only through research will the momentum of new energy technologies grow,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., President of Stony Brook University. “Stony Brook University is proud to be a leader on the advanced energy stage, and it is a great testament to Esther Takeuchi and John Parise that the Department of Energy renewed and selected their respective proposals. This work will transform energy storage technology and materials, and contribute to the solutions that will address the most pressing issue our world is facing right now: climate change.”

The Stony Brook m2m originally began operations on August 1, 2014, and is housed at the University’s New York State Center of Excellence in the Advanced Energy Center in Stony Brook’s Research and Development Park.

“Universities have a unique role to play in pursuing fundamental research that addresses our world’s most challenging and imminent problems,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Congratulations to Stony Brook University and its world-class researchers on the Energy Frontier Research Centers awards. Clearly, energy and sustainability is a SUNY strength as recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy.”

John Parise

John Parise

According to Takeuchi, the William and Jane Knapp Endowed Chair in Energy and the Environment, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences and in Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University, and Chief Scientist of the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Stony Brook-led m2m will further conduct basic science research to advance and enable the deliberate design of materials and components to achieve higher performing, longer life, and safer energy storage systems, including batteries.

The challenge that research team will face to advance the m2m on a fundamental level is combining high capacity and high power. Normally one can be had at the expense of the other. On a practical level, this would mean that it would be possible to have batteries that enable driving a long distance in a car for example, while still allowing fast acceleration. The combination would also pave the way toward reducing overall cost of the battery as often batteries are over designed to compensate for their limitations.

“This funding allows us to investigate the fundamental science that governs the function of batteries,” said Takeuchi.  “We aim to understand and then control the electron and ion transport within the batteries toward achieving the long elusive goal of combining high power and high energy content in one battery system.”

According to Parise, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts & Sciences at Stony Brook, the GENESIS Center develops a new paradigm by integrating advanced in situ diagnostics and data science tools to interrogate, predict, and control the pathways that govern synthesis and lead to new materials. In the short-term, GENESIS will harness the power of modern radiation sources, such as NSLS-II, along with computing and data mining strategies, to map the pathways taken by solid state reactions. By populating this reaction space sufficiently, machine learning will enable researchers to design new materials and the most productive reaction pathways needed to realize them. Longer term GENESIS-developed AI tools will allow prediction of totally new synthesis routes for target materials.

“Our ability to solve energy problems—such as the production, conversion and storage of energy—depends wholly on our ability to synthesize a new generation of materials that surpass those currently in use,” said Parise. “This award enables us to push that goal forward to develop new and better materials.

“Despite our present sophisticated understanding of the chemistry and physics of solids, actually making a new solid state material often remains an intuition-guided, slow and iterative process. Ingredients are placed in a reactor, the ingredients are ‘cooked’ and then we ‘look’ at the products to see if they are what is required,” he explained. “This ‘cook-and-look’ process remains the mainstay of materials research and development and can take months to years. We need an improved approach to dramatically accelerate new materials synthesis. GENESIS, a next generation materials synthesis center, provides this new approach.”

“These two awards from the Department of Energy exemplify Stony Brook’s leadership role in energy research in service of our nation,” said Richard Reeder, PhD, Vice President for Research at Stony Brook.  “These most recent successes underscore the importance of our investment in the Office of Proposal Development, led by Dr. Nina Maung, whose team supported the new proposal awarded to Professor Parise.”

In all, the DOE announced $100 million in awards for 42 centers, selected from 100 proposals; 9 were renewals; 22 new awards.

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