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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Presents Six Faculty with First Award Grants related to Climate and Energy Research or Atomic/Molecular/Optical Sciences

Kansas NSF EPSCoR helps Kansas build its research capacity and competitiveness in science and technology. The Fall 2014 First Award program helps early career faculty become competitive for funding from the research directorates at the National Science Foundation by: 1) encouraging early career faculty to submit proposals to the NSF (or other federal funding agency) as soon as possible after their first faculty appointment, and 2) by accelerating the pace of their research and the quality of their subsequent proposals. This fall, Kansas NSF EPSCoR honored six faculty with First Award grants in the areas of Climate and Energy Research or Atomic/Molecular/Optical Science. The researchers and their projects that will receive Kansas NSF EPSCoR funding are:

Biomass: A Sustainable Approach to Unsustainable Times in Interior Alaska

Joseph P Brewer
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
The University of Kansas

This research will examine the role of local and Indigenous environmental knowledge in the design, management, and outcome of a unique off-the-grid biomass energy project in Fort Yukon, Alaska. Winter is harsh, 40-70 below zero Celsius, and heat is provided by costly and unsustainable fossil fuels. The goal of the Fort Yukon project is to offset diesel cost of $4,080,000 over five years or 145,000 gallons per year by cutting and chipping cottonwood trees and using the feedstock in a separate, non-gas dependent, boiler system. While the science and approach to identifying species and harvest areas are sound (EA, 2013), information on the areas harvested has yet to be document and calculated. The foundation of this research agenda is valuing local/Indigenous knowledge, researchers will gather and document that knowledge used in the decision-making processes. Using interdisciplinary approaches, the PI and two graduate students will investigate the decision to deck wood on site, extract data from the operations/logistics side of the harvest, measure the ecological impact of cutting and decking on-site, and measure water content of wood decked. Initial conversations have revealed rich local and ecological knowledge unique to this Indigenous community; this research will extend that important data collection.

Multilayer Strategies for the Investigation of Electron Recombination Reactions in Organic Photovoltaics

Marco Caricato
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
University of Kansas

Dr. Caricato proposes to develop multiscale computational strategies that incorporate mutual polarization between layers based on extrapolation techniques. The goal is to treat complex molecular systems in a realistic environment through the best compromise between accuracy and computational effort. High levels of theory will be employed on the core system while the effect of the surrounding is introduced in a fully self-consistent manner. These methodologies will be used to study electron recombination reactions, which are one of the main causes of efficiency loss in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). The scope is to gain a mechanistic understanding of these reactions, and possibly suggest ways to minimize them. 

Bandgap Tunable 2-D Nanomaterials for Advanced Energy Conversion and Storage

Ram Gupta
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Pittsburg State University

This project has been conceived to increase our knowledge of the field of 2-dimensional (2-D) nanomaterials for their applications in energy conversion and storage. 2-D nanomaterials such as graphene and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) are very attractive for energy applications due to their tunable optical and electronic properties. In addition, they show very unique tunable interlayer thickness dependence properties which could be interesting for charge storage applications in a wide range of electrolytes. The development of promising new synthetic methodologies and the establishment of a fundamental approach to modify their properties will provide 2-D nanomaterials with potentially useful properties and applications. The objective of this research is thus to: (1) synthesize graphene quantum dots (GQDs) and nanosheets of MoS2; (2) study the effect of size, chemical doping and surface functionalization on the optical and electronic properties of GQDs; and (3) study the effect of these modifications on their ability to convert solar light into energy and energy storage efficiency. Funding for this project will enable us to enhance our fundamental understanding of 2-D nanomaterials and their applications in clean energy production and storage.

Future Efficient Electricity Distribution Network with Distributed Resources Growth
Chengzong Pang
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Wichita State University


Electricity plays an important and leading role in the flourishing of the world’s economy as sustainable and cost-efficient energy carrier for everyday needs. Due to rapid growth of electric vehicles in fast developing metropolitan areas, the reliability and stability of distributed system is impacted by optimal sitting and sizing of parking lots including different levels of charge and discharge stations with embedding renewable generation for utilities. This proposal hence deals with the fundamental demands of future distribution system development: efficiency, reliability, and sustainability. The research will focus on integration of several seemingly unrelated concepts: renewable generation and energy storage at dispersed locations or buildings, optimal sitting and sizing of parking lots with bi-directional charging/discharging stations, load leveling and efficiency optimization of energy consumption based on improved Demand Side Management (DSM) techniques, and improved asset and outage management based on Automatic Meter Reading (AMR). The final outcome of this research will be a demonstrated concept of an integrated solution for reaching the efficiency, reliability and sustainability goals. 

Structural Characterization of Atomic Nanosystems Using Ion Mobility Spectrometry with Mass Spectrometry

Alexandre Shvartsburg
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Wichita State University


A major research area formed over the last decade is nanotechnology, as seen in the US Nanotechnology Initiative and parallel foreign programs. Most new nanomaterials that emerged from those efforts are carbon assemblies such as fullerenes and associated graphenes, which were first discovered in the gas phase using mass spectrometry (MS). Here we propose to apply the novel approach of differential or field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS), coupled with MS, to separate and probe the isomers of nanoclusters, specifically carbon species including fullerenes. Such moieties have been studied by linear IMS, but FAIMS that is much more orthogonal to MS has shown superior power to distinguish species with fine structural variances. Hence application of FAIMS should lead to a fuller understanding of the morphological diversity of atomic nanosystems and detection of previously unresolved geometries. Subsequently, the structures separated by FAIMS would be further characterized by a following linear IMS stage and/or spectroscopic methods.

Three Dimensional Integrated Circuit (3D IC) Design and Analysis for Green Computing and Renewable Energy System

Yang Yi
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
University of Kansas


Renewable energy sources are mostly affected by climate change and other environmental factors like irradiance, temperature, wind speed, fog that makes the energy source unstable, how to minimize the effect of climate changes, maximize the use of the renewable energy, and optimize the workload performance become more and more important. Three dimensional (3D) integrated circuits could enable new paradigm for green computing and renewable energy applications, by integrating different technological compartments such as CMOS (complementary-metal-oxidesemiconductor-transistor), nano-devices, logics, memory, and analogue sensors. This project provides promising modeling and design solutions for the through silicon via (TSV), which is one of the most critical components in 3D integrated circuits for green computing and renewable energy applications. In the first research thrust, we will focus on introducing an accurate and efficient TSV model for 3D integrated circuit design and analysis. In the second thrust, we will design TSV structures that could resolve the signal integrity issues at high speed data transmission in renewable energy system. This project will lay a solid foundation for a practical design methodology providing higher reliability, lower power consumption, reduced delay, and system miniaturization for green computing and renewable energy system.