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Energy Frontier Research Center

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Frontiers in
Energy Research
Frontiers in Energy Research: November 2014
  • Michelle Personick

    "Learning how to think like a scientist comes from mentorship; learning to think like a creative and well-informed scientist comes from great mentorship." Discover how scientists help train the next generation of scientists at the nation’s Energy Frontier Research Centers...

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    "Research is hard—really hard—and experiments often do not work or give clear results the first time, and it can be difficult to know why. This uncertainty can be very discouraging," said Liam Palmer of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science. "Mentors can help provide encouragement and suggestions to help the students maintain their enthusiasm."

Feature Articles
  • "It's the chance to be something greater than the sum of the parts," said John Peters, director of the Center for Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis at Montana State University.

    Kathryn Fixen

    Six Energy Frontier Research Center directors share what it takes to do energy research that could change the world...

Research Highlights

Editor’s Note

Walking alone in the morning can be freeing, with time to think and go at your own pace, but when you add a friend or two, the experience changes. You work a bit harder to keep up, you share ideas about the best routes, and, sometimes, you have a lot more fun. This issue showcases the benefits of working together at the Energy Frontier Research Centers.

At each center, researchers mentor the next generation of scientists. Established scientists help those new to the field with everything from understanding the research question being asked to the intricacies of budgets to writing articles. Mentoring, done right, is a solid investment in the future of scientific discovery and the people who make it possible.

Building and maintaining a collaborative environment that fosters mentoring and groundbreaking research takes a director with strong vision, drive, and dedication. In this issue, we feature a conversation with six EFRC directors on the challenges and benefits of their job. Several of the directors are leading newly established centers.

Collaboration has led to outstanding materials that can benefit everything from massive nuclear reactors to tiny sensors powered by solar cells. Examples include materials that can separate uranium from used fuel rods without generating millions of gallons of waste and materials that can separate or release chemicals based on the flick of a light switch.

EFRC scientists have looked at materials and reactions behind today's and tomorrow's energy storage devices. They determined the chemistry behind a frustrating phenomenon linked to the failure of lithium-ion batteries in cell phones and laptop computers. They also discovered ion behavior that could, one day, be manipulated to build long-lasting batteries and energy-dense supercapacitors for powering electric vehicles and storing intermittent wind and solar energy. Also, they devised a way to study electrodes inside working batteries, and using this technique, they built an electrode that conducts electricity and transmits light.

While light is not a problem for the tiny dots of materials used in some solar cells, oxygen is. The materials are highly efficient, but they must be manufactured in an oxygen-free environment. Researchers devised an armor coating for the particles, opening the door to broader solar cell use.

Working together, scientists are pushing the frontiers of energy science, while building connections and launching careers that could have an impact on energy research for decades to come.

Happy reading!

Kristin Manke


Editorial Board

  • Laurent Karim Béland, Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution Center
  • Kathryn Fixen, Center for Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis
  • Tyler Josephson, Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation
  • Ashley Marshall, Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics
  • Michelle Personick, Integrated Materials for Sustainable Catalysis Center
  • Nicholas Quackenbush, Northeast Center for Chemical Energy Storage
  • Robert L. Sacci, Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures and Transport Center
  • Ryan Stolley, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis

Guest Writer

  • Liezel Labios, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis

Friend of the Board

  • Ralph House, Center for Solar Fuels


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.