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Frontiers in Energy Research: April 2014
  • Brian Doyle & Laila Jaber-Ansari

    Computational approaches often use abstract mathematical expressions to digitally simulate experiments that are too complex or expensive to first perform in the lab. However, it is vital to bridge the understanding from this basic computational level to physical realizations. Enter the interdisciplinary work of the Energy Frontier Research Centers.

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    Even with the immense processing speed available to the scientific community today, we can only simulate extremely small interactions of several hundred atoms together in a solid. To put that in perspective, that’s like picking up a handful of sand at the beach and trying to make a conclusion about the entire East Coast.

Feature Articles
  • Cary Hayner inspects a coin cell prior to electrochemical testing.

    Laila Jaber-Ansari

    Cary Hayner is a Ph.D. student, a scientist at the Center for Electrical Energy Storage and the Chief Technology Officer at SiNode Systems, a business that is developing silicon/graphene anodes for lithium-ion batteries. The anodes provide higher energy densities and faster charge and discharge rates. Learn about how his work at the Center translated into entrepreneurship and see what it takes to balance Ph.D. studies with everything else.

  • As director of the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, Maureen McCann seeks to create a sustainable carbon economy compatible with today's infrastructure.

    Ryan Stolley

    "The lasting legacy of EFRCs is in the nurturing of early career scientists," said Maureen McCann, director of the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, an Energy Frontier Research Center or EFRC. As a mentor, she draws upon the sense of wonder and a love of science instilled in her by her parents, with a little help from Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek's Spock. Read about McCann and her thoughts on mentoring, the future energy landscape, and chocolate.

Research Highlights

Spring in our nation’s capital was an interesting journey this year: balmy days with cherry blossoms in their full glory followed by bone-chilling winds and all-day rains. Science can be much the same.

In this issue, our talented team of writers share with you the struggles and successes of science at several Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The challenges and advances are clearly evident in the world of theory and models. As Brian Doyle and Laila Jaber-Ansari discuss in their article on bridging the gap between computational and experimental research, scientists are complementing experiments with computer models and simulations that allow researchers to delve into concepts that were previously inaccessible because of time or length scales or other reasons.

Here you will also meet two people with different career paths and views on science, but who both believe that the EFRCs are ideal for nurturing talent. Cary Hayner is an EFRC member, a Ph.D. student, and the Chief Technology Officer at SiNode Systems, where he is working to design and create energy-dense, fast-acting lithium-ion batteries, vital in everything from laptop computers to electric vehicles. Maureen McCann shares her view on turning biomass into fuels, mentoring, and her ideal day at the office.

Also, in this issue, you can get bite-sized articles about new discoveries. You can learn about the science of creating an “artificial leaf” for renewable energy studies and a new model that predicts potential pitfalls in reactions that could store electrical energy in chemical bonds. Find out how scientists are creating a common chemical from renewable resources, rather than petroleum. Also, you can learn about what causes the big benefits that have scientists interested in carbon nanotubes for batteries, sensors, and other uses.

Finally, learn about Dina Sharon’s latest journey—her upcoming research trip to Israel as a Fulbright scholar.

As with most journeys and our long, slow climb to spring, the results were well worth the journey.

Kristin Manke, Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Board

  • Marina Faiella, Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production
  • James Gallagher, Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations
  • Laila Jaber-Ansari, Center for Electrical Energy Storage
  • Jimmy O’Dea, Energy Materials Center at Cornell
  • Kjell Schroder, EFRC:CST for Understanding Charge Separation and Transfer at Interfaces in Energy Materials
  • Ryan Stolley, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis
  • Bryan Weber, Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center

Guest Writers

  • Brian Doyle, HeteroFoaM Center
  • Ralph House, Center for Solar Fuels
  • Tyler Josephson, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation
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.