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$324,000 NSF Grant Awarded to Physics' Kevin E. Bassler

March 21, 2016
$324,000 NSF Grant Awarded to Physics' Kevin E. Bassler

Congratulations to Prof. Kevin Bassler, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Physics and Mathematics, and TcSUH PI, on his recent NSF grant of $324,000. from the National Science Foundation for his work on "Non-Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics of Co-Evolving Complex Systems."

For more information, read the original news release.

UH Hires Director for Superconductor Manufacturing Institute

March 10, 2016
UH Hires Director for Superconductor Manufacturing Institute

Syed Ahmed, a power systems engineer and manager with more than three decades of experience in manufacturing and the power industry, has been named executive director of the Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute.

The University of Houston announced plans for the institute in May, when it received a $500,000 planning grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Since then, Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UH, has led efforts to build an industry-based consortium to speed full commercialization of high-temperature superconductors.

Energetics Inc. is supporting UH in the planning phase, which is addressing the technical barriers slowing the transition from today’s small-scale manufacturing to low-cost, high-volume production. Integrating the technology into existing infrastructure is another hurdle.

Selvamanickam, who also is director of the Applied Research Hub at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, said Ahmed has been a strong proponent of high temperature superconductivity for the utility industry for 20 years.

“Since ASMI is an industry-driven effort, I look forward to Syed bringing his industry expertise to build a strong consortium,” he said.

Superconductor devices are used in energy, health care and transportation, among other uses, offering increased efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional technology. But they haven’t yet made the leap to full deployment.

Citing LED light bulbs as an example, Ahmed said new technologies commonly take 25 years to become established, and superconductors are likely to follow a similar path as costs drop and efficiency increases. Selvamanickam oversees the manufacture of high-performance superconducting wire at the Applied Research Hub, focused on lowering cost and improving efficiency.

Other researchers and companies are involved in similar work, and Ahmed said he expects to work with everyone. “It is the technology that is important,” he said.

Before coming to UH, Ahmed spent more than 20 years with Southern California Edison Company, working on projects including the U.S. Department of Energy’s High Temperature Superconductivity Initiative. With both a MBA and a Ph.D. in power systems engineering, he has been involved with the business and technical side of the effort, from designing generating stations and substations and leading research and development efforts in power systems to the development and testing of the first high temperature superconducting fault current limiter.

He has taught at the University of California-Irvine and at the University of Southern California.

Chief among his duties here will be to pull together a coalition of industry members. ASMI won’t manufacture superconducting devices, but instead will connect industry with needed research and development efforts. About 30 companies already are involved.

“With all my industry contacts, I know what they want, because I was one of them,” Ahmed said. “We can help them deploy the technology. We are at the point where high-temperature superconductors need a breakthrough.”

For more information, read the original news release.

TcSUH Congrats: Narayan Poudel, GMAG Student Travel Award recipient

February 23, 2016
TcSUH Congrats: Narayan Poudel, GMAG Student Travel Award recipient

The American Physical Society Topical Group on Magnetism and its Applications (GMAG,) announced ten winners of the GMAG Student Travel Award who will attend the 2016 March Meeting. . CONGRATS to Narayan Poudel, graduate student in Prof. Paul Chu's TcSUH group!

GMAG represents one of the fastest-growing scientific sectors of the APS.

GMAG Student Travel Awardees 2015-16

To increase student participation and involvement in activitiesessential toGMAG, andin APSas awhole, GMAG sponsorsten StudentTravelAwardsfor theMarch Meeting. The award consists of $250 in travel assistance to attend the meeting.The studentis expectedto attendthe GMAGbusiness meeting and if called upon, to serve one shift at the “Contact Congress”booth tosupport theAPS outreachfor congressional supportfor scientificresearch. Thisyear’s(March 2016)award winners are:

Lakshmi Bhaskaran, Florida State University, USA

Dax Crum, University ofTexasAustin, USA

Han Kyu Lee, University of California Irvine, USA

Michael Page, Ohio State University, USA

Mariona Piris, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

Narayan Poudel, University of Houston, USA

MacCallum Robertson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

ZhengjunWang,WestVirginia University, USA

Jie Zhang, IBM, USA

Chi Zhang, Ohio State University, USA

For more information, read the original news release.

Continuing the Search for Better Energy Materials

January 15, 2016
Continuing the Search for Better Energy Materials

Throughout almost two decades of work with energy-related materials, Zhifeng Ren has received a number of grants from the Department of Energy (DOE). His latest DOE grant of $561,275 continues funding he has received for almost 20 years for work in basic energy science.

Ren, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Physics and principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity, will use the funding to continue his work with flexible transparent electrodes and thermoelectric materials.

The research may lead to the discovery of another new material.

“That’s always the driving force,” he said. “You try to enhance the existing material’s properties, and sometimes in that process you find something new.”

Ren, who came to UH from Boston College in 2013, is recognized for his contributions in five scientific fields: carbon nanotubes, thermoelectrics, hierarchical zinc oxide nanowires, high temperature superconductivity and molecule delivery/sensing. He has received DOE basic energy science funding since 1998, helping to propel his progress in many of those fields.

The latest grant will be limited to specific projects, including an expansion of work on a stretchable and transparent electrical conductor Ren and his lab reported in 2014. The gold nanomesh electrodes provided good electrical conductivity as well as transparency and flexibility, offering promise for foldable electronics, such as a foldable cell phone or a flat-screen television that could be rolled up and carried.

Ren said the next step will be to study the strength and flexibility of the nanomesh once it is mounted on a substrate.

He also will continue work on high-performance bulk thermoelectric materials in an effort to find materials with a high power factor.

That effort will start with a magnesium-silver-antimony compound, capable of generating electricity from heat – via an industrial smokestack or a vehicle tailpipe, for example. Ren’s group has reported that the material works well up to 300 degrees Centigrade, making it potentially valuable for clean energy and commercialization. The lab will continue efforts to reduce the electrical resistance of that material.

Last year Ren reported that his team had devised a new formula for calculating the maximum efficiency of thermoelectric materials, which will speed up the development of new materials suitable for practical use.

For more information, read the original news release.

Naval Research Grant Will Speed UH Work on Materials, Energy

January 19, 2016
Naval Research Grant Will Speed UH Work on Materials, Energy

A grant from the Office of Naval Research will help researchers from across the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering more efficiently test advanced materials being developed with funding from the Department of Defense.

Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Professor of mechanical engineering, said he will use the $810,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to purchase a physical properties measurement system (PPMS), which will allow researchers to more quickly test the advanced materials being produced in their laboratories.

Selvamanickam, who also is director of the Applied Research Hub at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH (TcSUH), said the new equipment will allow his lab to expedite its research on the development of improved superconducting wire.

The money comes from an Office of Naval Research (ONR) program to fund new equipment needed for research sponsored by that office or other Department of Defense research programs. Selvamanickam, whose work includes efforts to commercialize high-temperature superconducting wire, has a number of eligible grants.

The new PPMS won’t be used only for superconductor technology, he said, but will benefit a variety of materials research, including solar cells, batteries, graphene, thermoelectrics and flexible electronics. It will allow testing at a wider range of temperatures, from near 0 degrees Kelvin to room temperature, and over a wide range of magnetic fields, up to 140,000 gauss. That’s up from 90,000 gauss for the current equipment, which also is limited to use only for superconductor wires.

Yan Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, is among the other faculty who will use the new equipment. His research group focuses on green and sustainable organic materials for energy generation and storage. He also is a principal investigator for TcSUH.

“With the addition of PPMS, we will be able to obtain a fundamental understanding of how the transport properties of two-dimensional layered metal chalcogenides are influenced with the change of interlayer distance and the pillar materials,” he said. That should offer valuable feedback for an effort funded by the ONR’s Young Investigator Program to design better magnesium-ion intercalation materials.

Selvamanickam said the current testing system limits his lab to testing no more than three samples a week; the new system will increase that to as many as seven samples a week, in addition to providing a wider range of valuable information.

“It creates a big bottleneck,” he said. “Until we measure, we can’t proceed. With better measurement, we can make materials better, faster.”

For more information, read the original news release.

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