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NSF Grant to Fund Study of Energy Storage Nanomaterials

Apparao Rao (left)  and Ramakrishna Podila (Clemson University)

Apparao Rao (left) and Ramakrishna Podila (Clemson University)

A physics professor at Clemson University in South Carolina will lead a team developing new nanoscale carbon materials for storing energy, funded by a grant from National Science Foundation. The four-year, $1.2 million project is headed by physicist Apparao Rao and includes participants from Clemson and the University of California-San Diego.

The research is expected to produce high energy-density electrochemical capacitors, components that store energy in an electric field. The capacitors will have electrodes made of carbon nanoscale materials, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter. Nanomaterials have a much greater surface-to-volume ratio than other substances, and can produce unusual and often very useful properties.

In earlier research Rao and Clemson colleague Ramakrishna Podila (pictured left), investigated the engineering of carbon nanomaterials, developing a better understanding of the defects in those materials, which are key parts of the new project. The researchers now aim to use that knowledge of carbon nanomaterials to construct a variation of carbon with chains of molecules that allow electric current to flow in high-energy storage devices more effectively than comparable materials available today.

The result is expected to be a better understanding of the processes needed to build a carbon-based high energy storage density device. These insights into electrochemical mechanisms and material interactions will be applied to the development of proof-of-concept devices and prototype systems.

Rao notes the results of the research will have implications for electrical systems small and large. “This NSF project for energy storage,” says Rao, “could have a significant impact on applications ranging from household power tools to energy management and conservation applications.”

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