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Saturday, August 27, 2016

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College of Engineering receives $810,000 grant


In a pile of applications stacked 310 tall, the Cullen College of Engineering was one of 16 to be awarded a $810,000 grant.

The $810,000 was granted by the Office of Naval Research to help researchers test advanced materials like superconductors, batteries, solar cells and supercapacitors more efficiently.

The money will be used to buy a Physical Properties Measurement System, enabling researchers to rapidly measure various important magnetic, electrical and thermal properties of developing advanced materials.

The ONR grant will be exclusively used for the PPMS that will support other grants from the Navy used solely for superconductors and generators. Mechanical engineering professor Venkat Selvamanickam hopes the PPMS will accelerate the development of these materials used for energy and other applications.

“We will be able to nearly triple the number of superconductor tapes we can test and extend our measurement capability to about 50 percent higher magnetic fields,” Selvamanickam said.

Electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Yan Yao plans to use the PPMS to design safer and more efficient batteries than lithium-ion batteries. With the funds, Yao’s research group is able to develop batteries that use magnesium and aluminum-based ions that carry four times higher potential energy density than lithium.

“This would mean cell phones (could) hold a charge for days and electric vehicles could cost less and go much farther on a single charge,” Yao said.

CCOE Dean Joseph Tedesco said researchers will be able to test twice as many advanced materials each week, jumping to seven samples per week, from three.

“The global demand for novel materials with new or unusual engineering properties or applications has never been greater, especially in Houston, the energy capital of the world,” Tedesco said. “We are at the cutting edge of engineering research and education, and the field of materials engineering is no exception to this rule.”

Along with furthering new material research, the ONR grant will also offer engineering students opportunities to become involved with real-world research while using pioneering equipment and instrumentation.

With the help of the ONR grant, there are all-around high hopes for the CCOE, Yao said.

“I hope the UH Cullen College of Engineering will establish the reputation of doing world-class research and attract bright young minds to work in this exciting field of renewable energy,” Yao said.

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