U. North Carolina Lab Discovers Material for Fireproof Batteries

rainbow of batteries

This report is from the March 2014 issue of ASEE Connections:

“Lithium ion batteries have become very popular because they’re relatively energy-dense and long-lived. But in cars and airplanes, where larger batteries are needed, they’ve also been prone to catching fire. That’s because the electrolyte they use, a lithium salt in an organic solvent, is flammable. So although lithium ions easily navigate through this liquid during charging, if the batteries are overcharged, they can spontaneously combust.

But Joseph DeSimone, a University of North Carolina professor of chemistry, may have a solution: perfluoropolyether, or PFPE. That’s a polymer that often used use to lubricate heavy-machinery gears. DeSimone was looking at PFPE as a sealant that would keep barnacles and other marine life from adhering to ship bottoms. But then he realized PFPE’s chemical structure was not too dissimilar to the polymeric electrolyte used in in lithium ion batteries. Most polymers won’t mix with salts, but lithium salts easily dissolved in PFPE. And PFPE is nonflammable. DeSimone’s team’s discovery could result in a new type of lithium ion battery, based on PFPE, that’s not prone to bursting into flames.”

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From Prism: Carbon Creativity

The full version of this story appears in the upcoming March/April 2014 issue of Prism Magazine. Check the Prism website for past issues, and ASEE members can keep on the lookout for the PDF version of this story.


“My goal is to make injection of carbon dioxide not a disposal process but an energy-harvesting process.” – Thomas Buscheck, leader of the geochemical, hydrological, and environmental sciences group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

It’s a truth almost universally acknowledged that controlling greenhouse gas emissions – particularly carbon dioxide – is essential to slow the pace of climate change and the extreme weather and rising seas that come with it. But for a growing number of innovators, the recognized method for doing so – basically capturing the gas emitted by coal-burning power plants and storing it in vast caverns – seems somehow uninspiring. Why pump all this CO2 underground, they wonder, if you can harness it to get more fuel from the earth or to make new fuels and other products? Their emerging field has been variously called carbon capture and utilization (CCU), carbon dioxide utilization (CDU); carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS); and carbon capture and recycling or reuse (CCR). But by whatever name, it is starting to spawn startup companies and generate new opportunities for engineers in multiple disciplines, including mechanical, chemical, petroleum, electrical, and systems.

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U. Maryland Professor Named Campus Star by ASEE

ASEE recently honored University of Maryland assistant professor Liangbang Hu as a Campus Star for demonstrating excellence in engineering education and research. Campus Stars are profiled on the ASEE website. Hu is part of Maryland’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Maryland NanoCenter, and the Energy Research center. He studies and develops nanomaterials for use in energy storage systems and flexible electronics, according to the university’s news site. His group’s most recent success was a battery made of wood, which was featured in an October 2013 Prism story: Staying Powered.

Hu’s group includes not only graduate and postdoctoral students, but undergraduate and high school students as well. He teaches at both undergraduate and graduate levels. “I try to be innovative and push myself to constantly think out-side-of the box, pushing for ‘surprise’ ideas, and linking my fundamental research to practical applications,” Hu said in an ASEE profile. “Further, I am challenged to find my own ways of communicate with students and get them excited about what they study and learn.”


STEM Teaching Fellowships from Knowles Foundation

teachingThe Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) offers five-year-long fellowships that include financial and professional support to early-career science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers. Applicants must show their ability to develop the knowledge needed for teaching, exemplary teaching practices, and the qualities of a leader as well as teacher. KSTF Fellows receive stipends, professional development funding, grants for teaching materials, and extensive leadership and mentoring opportunities.

Fellows who finish the five-year program often remain involved with KSTF and are eligible for more leadership grants to pursue their own leadership activities outside of their classrooms. The 2014 application period has already passed, but check back on details for future programs.

Submit a Paper for the ASEE Mid-Atlantic Conference


The ASEE Zone 1 Conference in Bridgeport, Conn. in early April seeks presentations and invites submissions of full-length papers on topics related to promoting scholarly educational research methodologies on learning and methods of engineering instruction, dissemination of knowledge on engineering teaching and learning, encouraging efforts to improve instruction through development of innovative materials and techniques, sound instructional designs and improved evaluation methodologies, and enhancing the status of teaching in the university and beyond. The deadline for student paper submissions has been extended from February 14 to February 28, and the deadline for professionals has been extended to February 14.

Acceptance of the paper will depend on a successful peer review of the paper. Papers submitted to the ASEE Zone 1 Conference should include relevant research results and/or assessment information, as a rigorous peer review can be expected. Presentation of the paper at the Conference is required for publication of the paper in the conference proceedings. All accepted papers will be published in the Conference proceedings and the IEEE Xplore Digital Library. Selected papers will be invited for publication at various peer-reviewed journals. All papers must be submitted through the online conference system.