Energy & Power

Energy and Power is focused on materials and devices for more efficient power generation, energy storage, energy harvesting, fuel processing, micropower, and novel alternative energy solutions at lower cost.

Advanced Battery Chemistries

Fundamental and applied research on advanced battery materials.  Specific areas include:

1) Electrolyte Additives for Advanced Battery Chemistries:

Breaking out the limit on energy densities of Li ion batteries, advanced (or “beyond Li ion”) battery chemistries pursues the ability of accommodating Li+ or other guest cations (Na+, Mg2+) by adopting non-intercalation-type electrode materials, whose drastic morphologic change presents unprecedented challenge to electrolyte and interphases. This research opportunity aims to develop and understand interphasial chemistry of electrolytes or additives for “Beyond Li Ion Chemistries” using Si anodes, Na and Mg electrolytes, S and O2 cathodes (Principal Investigator: Kang Xu).

2) Dual Intercalation Batteries: There are project areas including the investigation of new electrolytes and electrolyte additives that improve the performance of dual-graphite cells for grid storage applications, fundamental studies to characterize the material property changes in anion intercalated graphite, and applied research on full dual-graphite cell performance.

3) Solid Li-Ion Conducting Membranes: Investigation of new solid Li-ion conducting materials and their processing into dense membranes and structural, physical, and electrochemical characterization at room and elevated temperature. Evaluation of the chemical and electrochemical stability of solid Li-ion conductors based on the garnet structure with various potential anode (e.g., lithium) and cathode (e.g., sulfur) materials at room and elevated temperature (Principal Investigator: Jeff Wolfenstine).

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Jeffrey Read 301-394-0313

Energy Storage Materials

Specific areas include:

1) Li-Ion Batteries: Fundamental and applied research on developing higher-energy-density safe Li-ion batteries, which are to be achieved through the use of high-voltage and/or high-capacity intercalation-type compounds as cathode and carbonaceous materials with or without Li alloys such as LiSix alloys as anode, than the state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries. Developments of structurally stable cathodes are urgently needed. Meanwhile, electrolytes that are compatible with both the new cathodes and anodes are also urgently needed.

2) Solid-Electrolyte Interphase (SEI) Characterization: (Principal Investigator: Arthur Von Cresce).

3) Computational Modeling of Battery Materials: Computational modeling of battery materials from quantum to mesoscale levels with a focus on understanding structural and transport properties of battery electrolytes and SEI components in bulk and at the interfaces. Modeling of electrolyte oxidation and reduction stability, and prediction of electrolyte decomposition reactions at electrodes (Principal Investigator: Oleg Borodin).

4) Polymeric Dielectrics for Next-Generation Capacitors: Fundamental and applied research on advanced high-energy-density polymeric dielectrics and capacitors (Principal Investigators: Janet Ho, Richard Jow).

5) Dielectric Performance: The Army needs to go beyond the present state-of-the-art poly(propylene) and poly(ethylene terephthalate) for pulse power and power conditioning applications. The immediate research opportunity aims to modify existing commercially available capacitor-grade polymers either by surface treatments or polymer structure alteration in solid state to improve dielectric performance, through an interconnected feedback between experimental research and first-principle computational modeling such as density-functional theory. The future research will leverage results from the present MURI “Rational Design of Advanced Polymer Capacitor Dielectrics” sponsored by Office of Naval Research to tailor-make new materials (Principal Investigators: Janet Ho, Richard Jow).

6) Higher Energy Density Polymeric Dielectrics: The Army is in need of higher energy density film capacitors than the state-of-the-art capacitors made of biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) for high pulse power and continuous power condition applications. To achieve this goal, higher energy density polymeric dielectrics that can withstand high field under fast charge/discharge conditions and high temperatures at around or above 150 °C with low loss are urgently needed. Research areas of interest include the following: Investigate breakdown mechanism in relation to morphology (amorphous vs. crystalline polymers), processing condition (melt extrusion vs. solution cast) and polymer structures (high molecular weight, backbone, and functional groups) of advanced polymers such as high-temperature polycarbonate and fluoropolymers. Develop and investigate techniques for improved polymer metal interfacial bonding, polymer/blocking layer/metal interfacial bonding for high current capability and self-clearing under breakdown conditions (Principal Investigators: Janet Ho, Richard Jow).

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Taiguang (Richard) Jow 301-394-0340

Ultra-Energy Materials and Nuclear Science

Specific research areas include the following:

1) Ultra-Energy Materials: Radioisotopes store about 100,000 times the energy density of chemical batteries, and many release that energy over a time scale of decades or longer. These truly ultra-energy materials have the potential to provide revolutionary advances in energy and power for Army applications.  Practical packaging of “standard” radioisotopes such as tritium or 63Ni, and improved energy conversion techniques, may enable extremely long-lived batteries to power drop-and-forget sensor networks for persistent battlespace awareness. ARL has a strong research program in this area, which focuses on radioisotope packaging and energy conversion methods.  In addition, the ability to control the rate and mechanism of radioisotope energy release may enhance this or other applications based on manipulation of nuclear isomers. These are excited quantum-metastable states of atomic nuclei with very long half-lives due to their large angular momenta that can also exceed decades; in the most extreme case, the isomer of 180Ta lives longer than 1016 years, while its ground state half-life is 8.2 hours. It has been demonstrated that certain nuclei can be “switched” between long-lived (energy storage) and short-lived (energy release) states upon demand, using different nuclear reactions to access pathways via higher-lying levels. This process has been demonstrated experimentally. .  Practical use of isomers will require an improved understanding of the underlying physics of switching, production of isomers, matching of switching devices, and efficient energy conversion. The ARL basic research program in this field represents a unique effort.  (Principal Investigator:  James Carroll).

2) Radioisotope Battery Development: Applied research and basic focuses on energy conversion from radioisotope decays for long-lived power sources. Energy-conversion approaches include both betavoltaic (\BetaV) and betaphotovoltaic (\BetaPV) methods.  For \BetaV direct-energy conversion, wide-band-gap semiconductors like GaN are investigated to capture charge carriers produced after energy deposition by beta electrons.  The benefits of 3-D device structures and suitable media for conformal radioisotope placement are studied to increase the effective dimensions of the depletion layer.  Polarization effects are also studied.  Nuclear scattering and transport processes in semiconductors are modeled with the goal of designing higher-efficiency direct-energy conversion materials. Betaphotovoltaics are studied, generally for 2-D structures, where beta electrons deposit energy in phosphors whose visible or near-visible emission is converted to electrical energy by a matched photovoltaic. Bulk material properties and fabrication-dependent surface properties of photovoltaic energy conversion are evaluated with specific interest in minimizing dark currents under low-light conditions.  Visible and UV phosphors are studied for use with different beta-emitting radioisotopes (Principal Investigator: Marc Litz).

3) Radiation-Based Interrogation of Materials: Applied and basic research into characterization of materials using external radiation to assess the fundamental science and feasibility of remote or laboratory interrogation of materials. Measurements are performed using state-of-the-art large-volume gamma-ray scintillation detectors and signal processing instrumentation in a high-throughput test bed. A D-T electrostatic neutron generator with Associated Particle Imaging capability and pulsed electron linacs provide external radiation for testing (Principal Investigators:  James Carroll, Marc Litz).

Principal Investigator:

Dr. James (Jeff) Carroll 301-394-0243

Compact Power

Specific research areas include:

1) Microcombustion: Pursuit of micro-combustion technology focuses on developing highly efficient and scalable heat sources using JP-8 and other fuel alternatives. These heat sources can be combined with energy conversion technology to develop compact, high-density power sources or serve as an efficient heat source for applications like cooking stoves. Developing new approaches to integrate combustion, heat recuperation, and liquid vaporization that enable scaling combustion-based power sources for extremely compact platforms. Investigation of improved experimental techniques for micro-combustion and improved fast numerical techniques to combine thermal, mass transport, and reaction (surface and gas-phase) modeling.

2) Thermal-to-Electric Energy Conversion: Electrothermal characterization of thin films, measurements of radiative heat from gray-body or selective emitters, setting up and running experiments that characterize thermal-to-electric conversion components and breadboard systems, and analyzing collected data. Investigate the design, materials, and preferred approach to integrate high spectral efficiency selective emitters with micro-combustors and/or meso-scale combustors.

3) Energy Harvesting: Energy harvesting could enable indefinite-length missions in hostile environments, but any solutions must carefully balance stringent requirements in power levels, metabolic cost, comfort, durability, and ease of use. A systems-level model is required to guide the development of new energy harvesting technologies that can simultaneously handle the breadth of possible use cases while capturing the intricacies of power management and human behavior (Principal Investigator: Paul Barnes).

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Christopher (Michael) Waits 301-394-0057

Alternative Routes to Indigenous Energy

Specific research areas include:

1) Solar Fuels: Fundamental research on alternative routes to fuels to include plasmonic catalysis, photosynthesis, and direct photoelectrolysis. The development of on-site fuel generation requires disruptive technologies for photocatalytic applications. Plasmonics and metamaterials offer a great potential to increase reaction rates and solar absorption cross-sections for photoelectrochemical reactions. Nanostructured arrays are intricately designed to enhance and manipulate electric fields which impart energy to the desired reactions, such as water splitting and synthesis of carbon-based fuels.

2) Alternative Routes to Fuel - Effect of EM Radiation and Metamaterials on Catalysis: Fundamental research on the use of different types of EM radiation and metamaterials and their effects on catalysis for the purpose of making fuels out of readily available resources. Photosynthesis, artificial photosynthesis, direct photoelectrolysis with wide bandgap semiconductors, plasmonically enhanced electrocatalysis, effects of electromagnetic fields on catalysis.

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Cynthia Lundgren 301-394-2541

Catalysis and Reaction Technology

Specific research areas include:

1) Catalysis and Fuel Chemistry: Our objective is to rationally design new durable catalyst materials for fuel conversion of JP-8 fuel and its surrogates. This program features materials-by-design approach using multiscale modeling with advanced experimental techniques in synthesis and reaction kinetic studies. Investigation of sulfur-tolerant JP-8 combustion catalysts include catalyst synthesis, materials characterization, and catalyst evaluation in bench-top prototype reactors. Investigation of deactivation of JP-8 combustion catalyst using experiments and kinetic modeling to elucidate the mechanism of catalyst deactivation by coke and sulfur impurities in the catalytic oxidation processes.

2) Fuel Processing: Fundamental and applied research on reforming military jet fuels, alcohols, and alternative fuels to syngas for power generation including engines and fuel cells. Efforts include desulfurization of jet fuels, fuel reformation catalysis, desulfurization of syngas, and palladium (Pd) alloy purification membrane and Pd-based membrane reactor design (Principal Investigators: Ivan Lee, Dat Tran, Zachary Dunbar).

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Ivan Lee 301-394-0292

Thermal Science and Engineering

Specific research areas include:

1) Microscale Heat Transport: Research into heat propagation in electronic devices and coupled electronic-thermal-material interactions; nonstandard measurement techniques for characterizing solid properties in semiconductor devices; and interfacial heat transfer across dissimilar solid, liquid, and gaseous material boundaries; electronics packaging thermal improvement techniques including low-impact microchannel cooling, heat spreading, interface materials, and air-side convection enhancement.

2) Phase Change Materials: Low melting temperature metals, solid-state transition materials, and others are promising phase-changing materials in the 0–250 °C temperature range with limited available thermal material data. Accurately measuring and cataloging this data across the phase change is a critical step to enabling future system design and presents a low-barrier-to-entry student-level collaboration opportunity.

3) Active and passive supercooling reduction: Promising high-performance phase change materials suffer a temperature-phase hysteresis that could potentially lead to critical failure in a thermal protection system. The literature contains some reference to mechanical, chemical, and electrical (or electrochemical) mitigation but little fundamental understanding of the mechanism. Focusing on methods of mechanical or electrical supercooling reduction would avoid material modification and provide insight into nucleation behavior. The project would model nucleation potential under various stimuli and experimentally characterize the effects.

4) Binary Fluid Behavior in Two-phase Flows: Many engineering fluids are multi-constituent liquids. These liquids will have unique behavior under boiling conditions and their impact when used in heat transfer applications is largely unexplored. There is interest in better understanding the fundamental behavior of binary liquids under boiling conditions, the system-level impacts of their use, and whether components/systems can be designed to take advantages of their unique behavior.

Principal Investigator:

Mr. Nicholas Jankowski 301-394-2337