Spotlight on Research

Physics Professor Continues Work with Nanometer-Size Catalysts

2012-272-04 Lithium Battery research.jpgCentral Michigan University Physics Professor, Valeri Petkov, has been awarded an additional grant ($201,398) from the U.S. Department of Energy for work on nanometer-size alloy catalysts.

Industrial processes use chemical, physical, electrical, or mechanical steps to aid in the manufacturing of items on a large scale.  Catalysts are minute amounts of particular materials that are added to these industrial processes to speed them up and increase their efficiency.

And as our demand for cheaper and cleaner energy sources and pollution control increases, so does our need for more advanced technological solutions that will require more efficient catalysts.

Dr. Petkov's research will focus on catalysts at the atomic level, including examining how catalysts operate under real-world conditions.

More efficient catalysts could someday turn currently non-viable devices, materials, and fuels into widely accessible and affordable products.  For example, the engine in your car is approximately 25% efficient.  Fuel cells are roughly 70% efficient.  "Imagine what may happen when internal combustion engines are replaced by fuel cells running on hydrogen or bio-fuels," said Dr. Petkov.  "The major obstacle is finding a catalyst that will make fuel cells work faster and longer."

This additional grant will allow Dr. Petkov to continue the work started under the initial grant awarded in February of 2013.

Physics professor is one of 15 recipients of Department of Defense MURI research award

A team of six scientists, including physics professor Marco Fornari, is receiving $8.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop and apply computational methods that will replace expensive and rare chemical elements from critical technologies.

Their award-winning research proposal, "Rare Element Replacement Strategies," is a combined effort between Fornari and his colleagues at Duke University, Brigham Young University, University of North Texas and University of Maryland - College Park. The team is receiving one of 15 awards given by the DoD to academic institutions to perform multidisciplinary basic research. Totaling $105 million, the awards are presented by the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research under the DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators across traditional science and engineering disciplines to accelerate research progress. Fornari, along with his research colleagues, will investigate topological decompositions and spectral sampling algorithms for elements substitution in critical technologies. In simpler terms, he will develop and apply methods to design advanced materials with improved functionalities for applications that are crucial for the mission of the DoD.

The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals in 16 topics important to the DoD and received a total of 193 papers, followed by 43 proposals. The 15 awards handed out are for a five year period, with the research expected to produce significant advances in capabilities for U.S. military forces, and to open up entirely new lines of research. A total of 43 academic institutions are expected to participate in these select 15 research projects.