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Frontiers in Energy Research: January 2014
  • Tyler Josephson & Eyas Mahmoud

    Non-equilibrium conditions are what allow planes to fly, soda to be carbonated, and steel to remain unrusted, but many natural and artificial processes prefer to be at equilibrium conditions, which is the most stable state of a system. However, the most desirable state is often far from these equilibrium conditions. Recognizing the importance of non-equilibrium processes in energy, the U.S. Department of Energy identified the Fifth Grand Challenge for science in the 21st century to be: How do we characterize and control matter away—especially very far away—from equilibrium?

    Read more

    A cartoon showing stable, low-energy (blue) and unstable, high-energy (red) states and the approach to a non-equilibrium state (point of arrow) from the equilibrium state (lowest energy).

Feature Articles
  • Maria Luckyanova is passionate about engineering sustainable solutions for the world's pressing energy needs.

    Kara Manke

    When cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet, most people credit the pilot for their safe journey through the skies. However, the next time you are on an airplane, Maria Luckyanova wants you to think about the teams of engineers who also contributed to your flight: the mechanical engineers who built the engines and the wings, the chemical engineers who developed the fuel, and the electrical engineers who designed the flight control system.

Research Highlights
  • Laila Jaber-Ansari

    While building solar energy collectors or other materials via colloid solutions with two or more particle types is possible, few schema turn out precise structures. These schemas only work in specific situations. Scientists designed a process that creates precise structures with different components...

  • Dennis M. Callahan

    Today's synthesis routes cannot produce revolutionary materials needed for nationwide sustainable energy production and storage. New routes are needed to synthesize efficient catalysts without waste and to generate more durable materials...

  • Kjell Schroder

    With lower manufacturing and installation costs than silicon-based solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells are a popular choice for producing electricity from sunlight. Yet, like other solar cells, they cannot store electricity for use on overcast days...

  • Bryan Weber

    When it comes to ages-old combustion engines, the challenge is pulling all the energy from the fuel without releasing pollutants. One option to achieve this goal is called reactivity controlled compression ignition...

  • Ralph L. House

    To heat more homes and power more industries, solar cells should be more like plant leaves and store the energy they produce for later use. The challenge is to create a solar cell that is both efficient and economic enough to be accessible on massive scales...

The start of a new year is the perfect time to celebrate building something new – whether it is a scientific career or a nanoparticle replica of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque roofline. Building is rarely straightforward; extremes happen -- masochistic physics professors teach classes and materials encounter high pressures and temperatures. Here, you’ll learn about scientists who overcame extremes to get the job done.

The newsletter begins with the extreme of the U.S. Department of Energy’s fifth grand challenge, which asks How do we characterize and control matter away – especially very far away – from equilibrium? The authors show how researchers at Energy Frontier Research Centers are doing just that, including using flames to synthesize thin films for dye-sensitized solar cells. In our feature article, you’ll meet Maria Luckyanova, who is building her career among the many choices available to her.

In our highlights section, you’ll learn how scientists built magnetic molds to re-create an iconic rooftop and other intricate nanostructures. You’ll see how scientists are sculpting nanomaterials, changing an alloy’s growth pattern by changing the light that strikes it. Others answer fundamental questions around building fuels, whether for combustion engines or for “artificial leaves” with dyes and nanostructures that turn sunlight into fuel.

Early career scientists who are tackling the grand challenges in their EFRCs built the newsletter. Some of our board members are just completing their graduate degrees, while others are working in labs and lecture halls. All are dedicated, curious, and committed to communicating about science. In addition, our board benefited from two guest contributors.

Kristin Manke
Editor-in- Chief

Editorial Board

  • Dennis M. Callahan, Light-Materials Interactions in Energy Conversion
  • Brian Doyle, HeteroFoaM Center
  • Laila Jaber-Ansari, Center for Electrical Energy Storage
  • Tyler Josephson, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation
  • Kara Manke, Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center
  • Jimmy O’Dea, Energy Materials Center at Cornell
  • Kjell Schroder, EFRC:CST for Understanding Charge Separation and Transfer at Interfaces in Energy Materials
  • Bryan Weber, Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center

Guest Writers

  • Ralph House, Center for Solar Fuels
  • Eyas Mahmoud, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation

Friend of the Newsletter

  • Kanan Puntambekar, Center for Electrical Energy Storage
Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.