Overview of projects
Project 1: Fabrication of Mechanically Robust Graphene-based Materials for Electrochemical Energy Storage
Graphene has recently attracted increasing attention for its excellent mechanical, thermal, optical, and electrical properties. It possesses a large surface area (2630 m2g-1) and high electrical conductivity, making it an attractive material for applications in electrochemical energy storage systems. Graphene-based supercapacitors and batteries are expected to provide increased energy and power performance, long cycle life, and low maintenance cost, and thus contribute to electric transport and portable electronics. Dr. Xiong's group has been developing new graphene-based nanomaterials for high-performance supercapacitors/batteries. The electrochemical charge/discharge of these materials involve coupled processes, including mass transport, phase transition, phase separation, chemical reaction, large elastoplastic deformation, strain mismatch, stress generation, fracture, and pulverization. Breakthroughs in the development of next-generation energy storage materials require a thorough understanding of the physical, chemical, and mechanical processes involved. Dr. Fan’s group investigates underlying mechanisms for electrochemical performance and electro-chemo-mechanical coupling in high-capacity electrodes during cycling for Li-ion and Na-ion batteries.
Project 2: Degradation of Different Energy Storage Materials and Release of Engineered Nanomaterials to the Environment
This project studies the degradation of novel energy storage materials (graphene) and their fate and transport in the natural environment. Dr. Yang’s group recently developed methods to detect and quantify carbon nanotubes in the natural environment and investigated the plant uptake and environmental transformation of carbonaceous nanomaterials. Based on these recent studies, in conjunction with Project 1, the environmental fate and plant uptake of graphene will be studied to understand its fate in the soil-plant system.
Project 3: Solar Energy Conversion—Basics and Applications
Solar power is omnipresent, free, sustainable, reliable, and the cleanest possible source of everlasting energy. If there were a mechanism to store the sun’s energy, it would open the tantalizing possibility of 24/7 clean energy. The Subramanian group focuses on designing and developing multifunctional materials, characterizing them, and applying them to energy conversion and storage. The group studies materials that are earth abundant, non-toxic, and ecofriendly. These materials can be used for solar energy utilization including photovoltaics, solar fuels, and environmental remediation.
Project 4: Seamless Integration of RESs and ESDs into the Power Grid
Though the deployment of RESs alleviates several concerns related to energy, natural resources, and climate change, their lack of rotational kinetic energy and the variability and intermittency of the power generated by RESs are key challenges to the stability, reliability, and resilience of power grids. ESDs hold the potential to smooth the output power of RESs and to compensate for the lack of rotational kinetic energy through virtual inertia. However, due to the irregular output of RESs and the high frequency of charging and discharging during contingencies, conventional stand-alone ESDs have a short lifespan and usually are oversized to reduce the stress level and to meet the intermittent peak power demand. Hybrid energy storage systems (HESSs) have been introduced to overcome limitations that may exist in individual ESDs and can increase the durability and performance of the system response. The project team has been working to determine optimal sizes and sites and identify appropriate types of HESSs and associated control systems in order to maintain the stability, reliability, and resilience of future power systems.
Project 5: Stochastic Optimal Operation of Grids with RESs and ESDs
he emergence of ESDs in electricity networks enhances RESs’ controllability, leading to a more reliable and resilient grid. Yet optimal scheduling and operation of grids with ESDs and RESs is still a challenge because of operational and technical constraints and uncertainties that are inherent to RESs’ outputs. To cope with these paradigm shifts, prominent optimal scheduling with advanced forecasting methods has been proposed. However, a key challenge is that future energy management systems will require uncertainty and risk components to develop stochastic optimal operational frameworks. Additionally, wind and solar generation from large wind and solar farms tend to be strongly correlated in many geographical regions, and forecasting their generation and calculating uncertainty hinges upon accurately characterizing their correlation structure. This has been largely overlooked by existing studies.