Pathways and Challenges for Biomimetic Desalination Membranes with Sub-Nanometer Channels – The Future of Desalination?


The authors acknowledge the support received from the National Science Foundation through the Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (EEC1449500) and via Grant CBET 1437630. The authors also acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under grant no. DGE-1752134, awarded to C.J.P. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

ABSTRACT

Transmembrane protein channels, including ion channels and aquaporins that are responsible for fast and selective transport of water, have inspired membrane scientists to exploit and mimic their performance in membrane technologies. These biomimetic membranes comprise discrete nanochannels aligned within amphiphilic matrices on a robust support. While biological components have been used directly, extensive work has also been conducted to produce stable synthetic mimics of protein channels and lipid bilayers.

However, the experimental performance of biomimetic membranes remains far below that of biological membranes. In this review, we critically assess the status and potential of biomimetic desalination membranes. We first review channel chemistries and their transport behavior, identifying key characteristics to optimize water permeability and salt rejection.

We compare various channel types within an industrial context, considering transport performance, processability, and stability. Through a re-examination of previous vesicular stopped-flow studies, we demonstrate that incorrect permeability equations result in an overestimation of the water permeability of nanochannels. We find in particular that the most optimized aquaporin-bearing bilayer had a pure water permeability of 2.1 L m–2 h–1 bar–1, which is comparable to that of current state-of-the-art polymeric desalination membranes.

Through a quantitative assessment of biomimetic membrane formats, we analytically show that formats incorporating intact vesicles offer minimal benefit, whereas planar biomimetic selective layers could allow for dramatically improved salt rejections. We then show that the persistence of nanoscale defects explains observed subpar performance. We conclude with a discussion on optimal strategies for minimizing these defects, which could enable breakthrough performance.

Biomimetic Desalination Membranes

As stressors like population growth, industrialization, and climate change threaten to deplete and contaminate our freshwater resources, larger bodies of saline water could provide a vast supply of water for drinking, agricultural, and industrial use.(1) However, desalination of these waters requires more energy and financial resources than traditional freshwater purification methods.(2) Currently, the state-of-the-art technology for desalination is reverse osmosis (RO) using thin-film-composite (TFC) polyamide membranes.(3,4) Fully aromatic TFC-RO membranes are readily produced at industrial scale through interfacial polymerization, whereby a rapid reaction occurs at the interface of immiscible organic and aqueous phases to form a highly cross-linked polyamide selective layer on a porous support(5) (Figure 1). With the advent of the TFC-RO membrane and energy recovery devices, seawater desalination energy requirements for the RO stage have drastically reduced from ∼15 kWh m–3 using the original cellulose acetate membranes of the 1970s down to only ∼2 kWh m–3, only ∼25% above the practical minimum energy.(2)

Figure 1. Transition in desalination research from focusing on dense polymers that reject salt by a solution-diffusion mechanism to considering sub-nanometer channels capable of molecularly sieving ions. In the solution-diffusion panel (left), common reactants for TFC-RO membranes are represented, which rapidly react at an organic–aqueous interface during interfacial polymerization to form a cross-linked, fully aromatic polyamide selective layer with characteristic ridge-valley morphology. Salt rejection determined by a solution-diffusion mechanism results from the higher partitioning and/or diffusion rates of water over ions. In the ion sieving panel (right), common molecular sieves that have been considered for desalination are shown, with ideal water pathways illustrated. In pores similar in size to water, single-file water transport is induced. Nanotubes and nanochannels can be synthetic (e.g., carbon nanotubes) or biological (e.g., aquaporins). To produce nanoporous sheets, sub-nanometer pores where only a few atoms are vacant have been etched in single-layer graphene using chemical oxidation, electron beam irradiation, doping, and ion bombardment.(12) For 2D laminates, the water pathway is through interlayer spaces between sheets. Studies so far have primarily considered graphene oxide nanosheets for 2D laminates.(13,14) The molecular sieving mechanism for ion rejection is by size exclusion, where highly uniform pores exclude larger solutes and ideally transport only molecules similar in size to water.

Reduced Operational Costs, Improved Reliability and Efficiency and Enhanced Product Water Quality

Despite the substantial reduction in energy consumption and overall cost, seawater RO still has room for improvement. While current water permeabilities enable near-optimal performance, increased water-solute selectivity would allow for reduced operational costs, improved reliability and efficiency, and enhanced product water quality.(4) For example, TFC-RO membranes inadequately retain chloride and some small neutral solutes, such as boron in seawater desalination and trace organic contaminants in wastewater reuse, necessitating extra purification steps which increase the cost of desalination.(4)Transport through the polyamide layer is well described by the solution-diffusion model, in which permeants (i.e., water and solutes) partition into the dense polyamide layer and diffuse through it (Figure 1).(6) 

The resultant permselectivity of the membrane is attributed to differences in abilities and rates of species to dissolve into and diffuse through the polyamide membrane material.(7) Although intrinsic water permeability can far exceed salt permeability during solution diffusion, as it does for polyamide, historical data suggest that it will be difficult to significantly advance performance with polymeric systems. Commercial desalination and water purification membranes typically exhibit a permeability–selectivity trade-off, similar to the Robeson plot for polymeric gas separations.(8−11) 

Furthermore, despite many decades of extensive research, no polymeric material has yet surpassed the desalination performance (i.e., water permeability, water-salt selectivity, and cost-effectiveness) of fully aromatic polyamide.

To overcome the limitations of the solution-diffusion-based polyamide membranes, research focus has shifted toward the development of desalination membranes that remove solutes via molecular sieving. In this mechanism of ion rejection, highly uniform, rigid pores that are smaller than the diameter of hydrated salt ions transport water and nearly completely reject ions by size exclusion (Figure 1). Recent formats of molecular sieves considered for desalination include nanotubes and nanochannels, two-dimensional (2D) laminates, and nanoporous sheets (Figure 1).(14) 

However, these top-down efforts have failed so far to achieve adequate salt rejection due to the persistence of defects coupled with the daunting challenges of tuning interlayer spacing or pore size.(12,13,15) 

Biomimetic membranes, or composites comprising an amphiphilic matrix with discrete, aligned nanochannels on a robust support, may provide a platform for industrial-scale molecular sieves that overcome the limitations of solution-diffusion-based polyamide membranes.

After over 3.5 billion years of evolution,(16,17) the cell membranes of modern organisms can perform an array of highly complicated functions, which rely on a system of complex transmembrane proteins aligned within the amphiphilic lipid bilayer. In this system, water and only select ions pass through channel pores and pumps, depending on the energy and nutrient needs of the cell.(18,19) In pioneering work, Preston et al. determined that an integral membrane protein formed a biological channel that selectively transports water in and out of many types of cells. This protein was the CHannel-forming Integral Protein of 28 kDa (CHIP28),(20,21) later called the aquaporin. For these discoveries, Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Through additional biophysical studies, ion channels also showed impressive selectivity, inspiring the design of synthetic ion channels.(22−25) 

Eventually, researchers realized the potential implications of these channels for industrial-scale water purification, especially aquaporin in the use of desalination, and attempted to produce biomimetic membranes, or materials that mimic the structure and performance of biological membranes.(26−35) 

While much of the work has focused on water-solute separations, the biomimetic membrane format also presents opportunities to develop membranes with tunable selectivity based on a chosen channel type.However, translating biological mechanisms into industrial-scale technology necessitates scale-up by orders of magnitude—from the microscopic size of a cell membrane to tens of square meters.(36) For industrial relevance, the synthesis of a biomimetic membrane would need to be cost-effective and simple. Simultaneously, such a membrane would need to be mechanically stable under RO pressures exceeding 70 bar and chemically stable during repeated membrane cleaning and usage.(37) Notably, even at the lab scale, sufficiently high-salt rejection has not yet been achieved for biomimetic desalination membranes after over a decade of research.(37,38) 

Therefore, channels, selective layer formats, synthesis strategies, and support layer types must be carefully considered to attain the capabilities of this technology. While certain aspects of biomimetic desalination membranes have been reviewed recently,(37−42) a critical analysis of their performance and their potential application in water-treatment processes remains necessary.In this critical review, we examine efforts toward biomimetic desalination membranes for water purification in order to identify the best strategies to realize their full potential for both desalination and solute–solute selectivity. We first examine molecular transport, contrasting solution-diffusion with molecular sieving and assessing transport through the mixed matrix of biomimetic selective layers. We next identify the key characteristics of the aquaporin that explain its ultraselectivity and fast water transport, comparing this biological channel to several synthetic channels and placing each in industrial context. Using corrected analysis of reported permeability measurements, we then show that the water permeabilities of many channels have been overestimated. Subsequently, we predict best-case-scenario outcomes for common biomimetic formats, including membranes with intact vesicles and membranes with planar biomimetic layers. For the more promising planar format, the biggest challenge is the presence of nanoscale defects. Through mathematical models, we estimate the defect density for several reported biomimetic membranes. We then discuss synthesis pathways that could limit both the presence of defects and the effect of defects on transport performance.

We conclude with a discussion on the practicality of biomimetic desalination membranes and how to best exploit the strengths of discrete nanochannels as molecular sieves in other applications beyond desalination.

Figure 2. Channel types for biomimetic membranes, including biological as well as bioinspired and bioderived. (a) Single channel water permeability versus pore interior diameter. The pore interior diameter here is defined as the inner diameter of the most constricted region. For PAH[4], the pore diameter shown refers to the average width of dynamic voids that formed in channel clusters.

Channel permeabilities from stopped-flow data and simulations were adjusted to 25 °C and corrected for any previous errors in permeability calculation (see SI, Section S1 for details). (b) (left) Overhead view of AqpZ tetramer and (right) side view of single AqpZ channel with characteristic hourglass shape. (c) GramA dimer as it exists in biological and vesicular environments. In organic solvents, the monomers can intertwine to form a parallel or antiparallel helix. AqpZ and GramA diagrams were drawn using PyMOL(69) with protein sequences from the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics Protein Data Bank (RCSB-PDB, https://www.rcsb.org/), PDB-ID codes 1RC2(70) and 1NRM.(71) (d) Dependence of water diffusivity through pores on the number of interior hydrogen-bond points.

Data extracted from ref (56). (e) Cyclic peptide nanotubes. (left) Hydrogen-bonding pattern of pore-forming, stacked cyclic peptides. A polyglycine structure is shown for simplicity; side residues would typically be present. (right) Modified cyclic peptide with interior peptide-mimicking functional groups. The analogous unmodified cyclic peptide is radially symmetrical with a fourth primary amine side chain (cyclo[(d-Ala-Lys)4]).(72) (f) Single-walled carbon nanotube porins (wide and narrow) with armchair pattern. Number of carbons approximate those of wCNTP and nCNTP. (g) (left) PAP[5] and (right) PAH[4] nanochannels with peptide appendages that form interarm hydrogen bonds. (h) (left) Aquafoldamer subunits with “sticky” ends. Differences in end groups that comprise Aqf1 and Aqf2 subunits are illustrated. (right) Weak hydrogen-bonding pattern of pore-forming, stacked aquafoldamers. Six subunits are needed to cross a DOPC membrane. (i) Pure water permeability versus total channel areal coverage in a DOPC bilayer. Single channel permeabilities from (a) were divided by channel cross-sectional area and converted into channel water permeability (A) coefficients using eq 3. Overall biomimetic layer A coefficients were calculated for various densities of channels within a DOPC bilayer using eq 7. DOPC bilayer hydraulic permeability was taken as 0.15 L m–2 h–1 bar–1.(73) The shaded region indicates the water permeability of current commercial TFC-RO membranes, an adequate range for desalination performance. Permeabilities are listed in Table S1.

** Read the Complete Paper and Conclusions from AZ Nano by Following the Link Below

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c05753#

Authors

  • Cassandra J. Porter: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 
  • Jay R. Werber: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut and Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 
  • Mingjiang Zhong: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 
  • Corey J. Wilson: School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, United States
  • Menachem Elimelech: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 

“Great Things from Small Things” Top 50 Nanotech Blog – Our Top Posts This Week


Happy Holiday (Labor Day) Weekend Everyone! Here are our Top Posts from this past week … Just in case you missed them! We hope all of you are well and safe and continuing to ‘get back to normal’ as the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 continues to restrain all of us in one way or another.

Thankfully however, COVID-19 has NOT restricted the Forward Advance of Innovation and Technology Solutions from the small worlds of Nanotechnology – “Great Things from Small Things” – Read and Enjoy and wonderful Holiday Weekend!Team GNT

Carbon Nanotube Second Skin Protects First Responders and Warfighters against Chem, Bio Agents – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The same materials (adsorbents or barrier layers) that provide protection in current garments also detrimentally inhibit breathability.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations. Researchers have developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. Material of this type could be used in clinical and medical settings as well.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/carbon-nanotube-second-skin-protects-first-responders-and-warfighters-against-chem-bio-agents-lawrence-livermore-national-laboratory/

MIT: Lighting the Way to Better Battery Technology

Supratim Das is determined to demystify lithium-ion batteries, by first understanding their flaws.  Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

Doctoral candidate Supratim Das wants the world to know how to make longer-lasting batteries that charge mobile phones and electric cars.

Supratim Das’s quest for the perfect battery began in the dark. Growing up in Kolkata, India, Das saw that a ready supply of electric power was a luxury his family didn’t have. “I wanted to do something about it,” Das says. Now a fourth-year PhD candidate in MIT chemical engineering who’s months away from defending his thesis, he’s been investigating what causes the batteries that power the world’s mobile phones and electric cars to deteriorate over time.

Lithium-ion batteries, so-named for the movement of lithium ions that make them work, power most rechargeable devices today. The element lithium has properties that allow lithium-ion batteries to be both portable and powerful; the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who helped develop them in the late 1970s. But despite their widespread use, lithium-ion batteries, essentially a black box during operation, harbor mysteries that prevent scientists from unlocking their full potential. Das is determined to demystify them, by first understanding their flaws.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/07/06/mit-lighting-the-way-to-better-battery-technology/

Nuclear Diamond Batteries could disrupt Energy/ Energy Storage as we know it … “Imagine a World where you wouldn’t need to charge your battery for …. Decades!”

Illustration of the NDB Battery in a Most Recognizable ‘18650’ Format

They will blow any energy density comparison out of the water, lasting anywhere from a decade to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge.”

“They will offer higher power density than lithium-ion. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash.”

And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages.

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/nano-diamond-self-charging-batteries-could-disrupt-energy-as-we-know-it-imagine-a-world-where-you-wouldnt-need-to-charge-your-battery-for-decades/

“Practical and Viable” Hydrogen Production from Solar – Long Sought Goal of Renewable Energy – Is Close … Oh So Close

Technology developed at the Technion: the oxygen and hydrogen are produced and stored in completely separate cells.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes.Think of this research as a sort of artificial photosynthesis, said Lilac Amirav, associate professor of chemistry at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. (If it could be scaled up, the technology could eventually be the basis of “solar factories” in which arrays of solar collectors split water into stores of hydrogen fuel——as well as, for reasons discussed below, one or more other industrial chemicals.)Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/practical-and-viable-hydrogen-production-from-solar-long-sought-goal-of-renewable-energy-is-close-oh-so-close/

Watch More … The EV ‘Revolution and Evolution’ … Will the Era of the ICE be over in 2025? 2030?

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model. It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

Nuclear Diamond Batteries could disrupt Energy/ Energy Storage as we know it … “Imagine a World where you wouldn’t need to charge your battery for …. Decades!”


Nano-Diamond-Self-Charging-Battery-FB
Illustration of the NDB Battery in a Most Recognizable ‘18650’ Format

They will blow any energy density comparison out of the water, lasting anywhere from a decade to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge.”

“They will offer higher power density than lithium-ion. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash.”

And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages.

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

 

So What is NDB’s Story and How Do They Work?

The heart of each cell is a small piece of recycled nuclear waste. NDB (nuclear diamond battery) uses graphite nuclear reactor parts that have absorbed radiation from nuclear fuel rods and have themselves become radioactive.

Untreated, it’s high-grade nuclear waste: dangerous, difficult and expensive to store, with a very long half-life.

This graphite is rich in the carbon-14 radioisotope, which undergoes beta decay into nitrogen, releasing an anti-neutrino and a beta decay electron in the process. NDB takes this graphite, purifies it and uses it to create tiny carbon-14 diamonds.

nuclear-waste-diamond-batteries-768x403

The diamond structure acts as a semiconductor and heat sink, collecting the charge and transporting it out. Completely encasing the radioactive carbon-14 diamond is a layer of cheap, non-radioactive, lab-created carbon-12 diamond, which contains the energetic particles, prevents radiation leaks and acts as a super-hard protective and tamper-proof layer.

To create a battery cell, several layers of this nano-diamond material are stacked up and stored with a tiny integrated circuit board and a small supercapacitor to collect, store and instantly distribute the charge. NDB says it’ll conform to any shape or standard, including AA, AAA, 18650, 2170 or all manner of custom sizes.

And so what you get is a tiny miniature power generator in the shape of a battery that never needs charging – and that NDB says will be cost-competitive with, and sometimes significantly less expensive than – current lithium batteries. That equation is helped along by the fact that some of the suppliers of the original nuclear waste will pay NDB to take it off their hands. 

img_1875

Shown here as a small, circuit board mounted design, the nano diamond battery has the potential to totally upend the energy equation since it never needs charging and lasts many, many years

Radiation levels from a cell, NDB tells us, will be less than the radiation levels produced by the human body itself, making it totally safe for use in a variety of applications. At the small scale, these could include things like pacemaker batteries and other electronic implants, where their long lifespan will save the wearer from replacement surgeries. They could also be placed directly onto circuit boards, delivering power for the lifespan of a device.

In a consumer electronics application, NDB’s Neel Naicker gives us an example of just how different these devices would be: “Think of it in an iPhone. With the same size battery, it would charge your battery from zero to full, five times an hour. Imagine that.

Imagine a world where you wouldn’t have to charge your battery at all for the day. Now imagine for the week, for the month… How about for decades? That’s what we’re able to do with this technology.”

And it can scale up to electric vehicle sizes and beyond, offering superb power density in a battery pack that is projected to last as long as 90 years in that application – something that could be pulled out of your old car and put into a new one. If part of a cell fails, the active nano diamond part can be recycled into another cell, and once they reach the end of their lifespan – which could be up to 28,000 years for a low-powered sensor that might, for example, be used on a satellite – they leave nothing but “harmless byproducts.”

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

Their technology’s ability to deliver energy over very long periods of time without the need for recharging, refueling, or servicing puts them in an ideal position to tackle the world’s energy requirements through a distributed solution with close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.”

Indeed, the NDB battery offers an outstanding 24-hour energy proposition for off-grid living, and the NDB team is adamant that it wishes to devote a percentage of its time to providing it to needy remote communities as a charity service with the support of some of the company’s business customers.

Should the company chew right through the world’s full supply of carbon-14 nuclear waste – a prospect that would take some extremely serious volume – NDB says it can create its own carbon-14 raw material simply and cost-effectively.

The company has completed a proof of concept, and is ready to begin building its commercial prototype once its labs reopen after COVID shutdown. A low-powered commercial version is expected to hit the market in less than two years, and the high powered version is projected for five years’ time. NDB says it’s well ahead of its competition with patents pending on its technology and manufacturing processes. 

Should this pan out as promised, it’s hard to see how this won’t be a revolutionary power source. Such a long-life battery will fundamentally challenge the disposable ethos of many modern technologies, or lead to battery packs that consumers carry with them from phone to phone, car to car, laptop to laptop across decades. NDB-equipped homes can be grid-connected or not. Each battery is its own near-inexhaustible green energy source, quietly turning nuclear waste into useful energy. 

Sounds like remarkable news to us!

We spoke with several members of the NDB executive team. Check out the full edited transcript of that interview for more information, or watch the cartoon video below.

Nano Diamond Battery Explainer Video – NDB

Source: NDB

Want to Know More? Listen to Professor Simon Holland Explain Pros and Cons

Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are lasting longer and longer and … Promising Research from the University of Copenhagen


The new electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells consists of a thin platinum-cobalt alloy network and, unlike the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier. Credit: Gustav Sievers

Roughly 1 billion cars and trucks zoom about the world’s roadways. Only a few run on hydrogen.

This could change after a breakthrough achieved by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

The breakthrough? A new catalyst that can be used to produce cheaper and far more sustainable hydrogen powered vehicles.

Hydrogen vehicles are a rare sight. This is partly because they rely on a large amount of platinum to serve as a catalyst in their fuel cells—about 50 grams. Typically, vehicles only need about five grams of this rare and precious material. Indeed, only 100 tons of platinum are mined annually, in South Africa.

Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry have developed a catalyst that doesn’t require such a large quantity of platinum.

“We have developed a catalyst which, in the laboratory, only needs a fraction of the amount of platinum that current  fuel cells for cars do. We are approaching the same amount of platinum as needed for a conventional .

At the same time, the new catalyst is much more stable than the catalysts deployed in today’s hydrogen powered vehicles,” explains Professor Matthias Arenz from the Department of Chemistry.

A paradigm shift for hydrogen vehicles

Sustainable technologies are often challenged by the limited availability of the rare materials that make them possible, which in turn, limits scalability.

Due to this current limitation, it is impossible to simply replace the world’s vehicles with hydrogen models overnight. As such, the new technology a game-changer.

“The new catalyst can make it possible to roll out hydrogen vehicles on a vastly greater scale than could have ever been achieved in the past,” states Professor Jan Rossmeisl, center leader of the Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis at UCPH’s Department of Chemistry.

The new catalyst improves fuel cells significantly, by making it possible to produce more horsepower per gram of platinum. This in turn, makes the production of hydrogen  vehicles more sustainable.

More durable, less platinum

Because only the surface of a catalyst is active, as many platinum atoms as possible are needed to coat it. A catalyst must also be durable. Herein lies the conflict.

To gain as much surface area as possible, today’s catalysts are based on -nano-particles which are coated over carbon. Unfortunately, carbon makes catalysts unstable. The new catalyst is distinguished by being carbon-free.

Instead of nano-particles, the researchers have developed a network of nanowires characterized an abundance of surface area and high durability.

“With this breakthrough, the notion of hydrogen vehicles becoming commonplace has become more realistic. It allows them to become cheaper, more sustainable and more durable,” says Jan Rossmeisl.

Dialogue with the automotive industry

The next step for the researchers is to scale up their results so that the technology can be implemented in hydrogen vehicles.

“We are in talks with the  about how this breakthrough can be rolled out in practice. So, things look quite promising,” says Professor Matthias Arenz.

The research results have just been published in Nature Materials, one of the leading scientific journals for materials research. It is the first article in which every researcher at the basic research center, “Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis (CHEAC)”, has collaborated.

The center is a so-called Center of Excellence, supported by the Danish National Research Foundation.

“At the center, we develop new materials to create sustainable chemicals and fuels that help society make the chemical industry greener. That it is now possible to scale up the production of hydrogen vehicles, and in a sustainable way, is a major step forward,” says center leader Jan Rossmeisl.

“Great Things from Small Things” Top 50 Nanotech Blog – Read What You Missed Last Week!


 

The Links below will take you to our Top Posts from last week. Thanks for Following Us!

– Team GNT –

Getting More Cancer-Fighting Nanoparticles to Where they are Needed – University of Toronto

University of Toronto Engineering researchers have discovered a dose threshold that greatly increases the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs into a tumor. Determining this threshold provides a potentially universal method for gauging nanoparticle dosage and could help advance a new generation of cancer therapy, imaging and diagnostics ….

A Titanate Nanowire Mask that can Eliminate Pathogens – EPFL Labs

Filter ‘paper’ made from titanium oxide nanowires is capable of trapping pathogens and destroying them with light. This discovery by an EPFL laboratory could be put to use in personal protective equipment, as well as in ventilation and air conditioning systems. As part of attempts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic … 

NanoCommerce Inks Joint Venture with Pulsar UAV to Develop and Commercialize On-Board Hydrogen Powered Drone

NanoCommerce Sdn Bhd (NCSB), a subsidiary of NanoMalaysia Bhd, signed a joint venture with Pulsar UAV Sdn Bhd (PUSB) to commercialize an increased range hydrogen-powered drone known as the High Endurance Fuel Cell Powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (On-board H2 Generation). The partnership will give NanoCommerce a 20 per cent stake in Pulsar UAV, a Malaysian company that builds its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones from scratch ….

Phoenix Arizona’s ‘Lectric eBikes are taking the Industry by Storm – 2 Young Entrepreneurs Capture Market Interest with ‘Fun-To-Ride’ Affordable eBikes

All Levi Conlow’s dad wanted was an electric bike that didn’t cause sticker shock. So when he approached his son and his son’s best friend Robby Deziel with the proposal that they put their heads together to make obtaining his e-bike dream come true, the new college graduates started thinking. “My dad was just entering that phase of his life when he wanted an e-bike for himself and my mom. Their friends had e-bikes,” Conlow said. “He was frustrated. He couldn’t find one for less than $2,000 or $3,000” ….

Hyperion’s Hydrogen-Powered Supercar can Drive 1,000 Miles (Yes … ONE THOUSAND MILES) on a Single Tank And … Go from ‘0’ to 60 in 2+ Seconds!

The Hyperion XP-1 Pictured Above

Hyperion, a California-based company, has unveiled a hydrogen-powered supercar the company hopes will change the way people view hydrogen fuel cell technology.  The Hyperion XP-1 will be able to drive for up to 1,000 miles on one tank of compressed hydrogen gas and its electric motors will generate more than 1,000 horsepower, according to the company. The all-wheel-drive car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little over two seconds, the company said.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars that use hydrogen to generate power inside the car rather than using batteries to store energy. The XP-1 doesn’t combust hydrogen but uses it in fuel cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air in a process that creates water, the vehicle’s only emission, and a stream of electricity to power the car.

Elec and Hydro 11456746-3x2-xlarge

 

You May Also Want to Read About: Hydrogen or Electric Vehicles? The Answer is … Probably Both

 

Watch Our Video on Our ‘Nano-Enabled’ Batteries and Super Capacitors

NanoCommerce Inks Joint Venture with Pulsar UAV to Develop and Commercialize On-Board Hydrogen Powered Drone


Drone Maylasian thumbnail_68f24af0cb308e5e8bc43fdd50177c98

NanoCommerce Sdn Bhd (NCSB), a subsidiary of NanoMalaysia Bhd, signed a joint venture with Pulsar UAV Sdn Bhd (PUSB) to commercialize an increased range hydrogen-powered drone known as the High Endurance Fuel Cell Powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (On-board H2 Generation).

The partnership will give NanoCommerce a 20 per cent stake in Pulsar UAV, a Malaysian company that builds its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones from scratch.

Hydrogen produced within the drone allows for it to fly for a longer time due to the core technology, which is hydrogen fuel cell, known for better endurance. The differentiating factor here is that the drone is equipped with a nanotechnology enhanced hydrogen reactor that produces hydrogen on-demand to the fuel cells. This generates electricity to power the rotors for flight without the need for heavy compressed gas storage thereby, improving the power-to-weight ratio.

According to Izmir Yamin, Chief Executive Officer of Pulsar UAV, the collaboration with NanoMalaysia will help Pulsar UAV to validate the needs of drone services in various sectors particularly, agriculture.

“The market validation gives us reason to further improve our drone services by developing an on-board hydrogen generator. Now, with our in-house hydrogen technology, we are not only improving the drone services, but we are also able to venture into other sectors like energy and transportation,” Izmir said.

In a similar note, Dr Rezal Khairi Ahmad, CEO of NanoCommerce and NanoMalaysia said that NanoMalaysia places an enormous intrinsic value on the project through a congregation of project investments, intellectual properties, and market validation and access.

The on-board hydrogen powered drone has already been sandboxed for precision agriculture with a level of success,” Rezal said.

The joint venture will also enable NanoMalaysia Berhad to further develop the existing Hydrogen Paired Hybrid Energy Storage System (H2SS) – which currently powers Pulsar’s drones – for another project. It will be Malaysia’s first locally developed electric motorsports vehicle, the Hydrogen Paired Electric Racecar (HyPER).

HyPER, aims to mobilise the Malaysian automotive and transportation sectors in the direction of renewable energy, specifically green hydrogen as a first step towards a Hydrogen Economy.

The global Electric Vehicle (EV) market stood at USD39.8 billion (RM167 billion) in 2018 and is projected to reach USD1.5 trillion (approximately RM6.4 trillion) by 2025.

Currently, the EV market is hindered by the lack of charging infrastructures and the need for an extended charging time, as well as hydrogen refuelling stations for battery and fuel cell versions respectively. The high-pressured hydrogen tanks in fuel cell-EVs also present a substantial safety risk. The H2SS technology will be able to combat these issues.

Firstly, H2SS will be placed in HyPER as a cartridge and is powered using distilled or tap water and powdered hydrides – eliminating the need for expensive hydrogen refuelling stations.

Secondly, it can generate its own hydrogen fuel, which takes away the risk of having a hydrogen tank in the vehicle.

Dr Rezal also commented that HyPER is due for extensive shakedown in August 2020 with participation from potential industrial up-takers for quicker penetration into the automotive sector.

Malaysia will immediately possess an advantage in the form of homegrown hydrogen technology to catalyse the growth of a new and green automotive and transport industry in the near term.
Read the original article on Business Today.

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A Titanate Nanowire Mask that can Eliminate Pathogens EPFL Labs


nano wire mask atitanatenan

Filter ‘paper’ made from titanium oxide nanowires is capable of trapping pathogens and destroying them with light. This discovery by an EPFL laboratory could be put to use in personal protective equipment, as well as in ventilation and air conditioning systems.

As part of attempts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, paper masks are increasingly being made mandatory. Their relative effectiveness is no longer in question, but their widespread use has a number of drawbacks. These include the environmental impact of disposable masks made from layers of non-woven polypropylene plastic microfibres. Moreover, they merely trap pathogens instead of destroying them. “In a hospital setting, these masks are placed in special bins and handled appropriately,” says László Forró, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Physics of Complex Matter. “However, their use in the wider world—where they are tossed into open waste bins and even left on the street—can turn them into new sources of contamination.”

Researchers in Forró’s lab are working on a promising solution to this problem: a membrane made of titanium oxide nanowires, similar in appearance to filter paper but with antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Their material works by using the photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation, the fibers convert resident moisture into oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide, which have the ability to destroy pathogens. “Since our filter is exceptionally good at absorbing moisture, it can trap droplets that carry viruses and bacteria,” says Forró. “This creates a favorable environment for the oxidation process, which is triggered by light.”

The researchers’ work appears today in Advanced Functional Materials, and includes experiments that demonstrate the membrane’s ability to destroy E. coli, the reference bacterium in biomedical research, and DNA strands in a matter of seconds. Based on these results, the researchers assert—although this remains to be demonstrated experimentally—that the process would be equally successful on a wide range of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

Their article also states that manufacturing such membranes would be feasible on a large scale: the laboratory’s equipment alone is capable of producing up to 200 m2 of filter paper per week, or enough for up to 80,000 masks per month. Moreover, the masks could be sterilized and reused up a thousand times. This would alleviate shortages and substantially reduce the amount of waste created by disposable surgical masks. Finally, the manufacturing process, which involves calcining the titanite nanowires, makes them stable and prevents the risk of nanoparticles being inhaled by the user.

A start-up named Swoxid is already preparing to move the technology out of the lab. “The membranes could also be used in air treatment applications such as ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as in personal protective equipment,” says Endre Horváth, the article’s lead author and co-founder of Swoxid.

Source.

Hydrogen or electric vehicles? Why the answer is probably both


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The distinct virtues of the two main emerging types of greener transport mean both are likely to flourish, depending on the requirements of different types of user.

Battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) are gradually displacing the internal combustion engine in the move toward greener forms of transportation. An alternative is the hydrogen vehicle, or fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). Both are propelled by electric motors, but where the BEV is powered by a lithium ion battery, the FCEV uses a fuel cell to convert hydrogen into electricity.

It’s common to see the two technologies pitted against one another as alternatives. The major point of contention is whether hydrogen is as green as its supporters like to argue. That’s because while hydrogen vehicles emit no emissions, the process by which hydrogen is extracted and compressed into fuel tanks results in greater efficiency losses. Volkswagen has been quite public in asserting that this makes the BEV the clear winner.

However, there are other leading manufacturers, notably Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, who are clearly prioritising FCEVs. Companies investing in this technology are betting that hydrogen will likely play a much bigger role in our energy needs in general in the decades to come. There are also greener methods of extraction being developed, such as obtaining hydrogen from biomass.

Another key area of comparison is cost. Here, the BEV appears to have the upper hand for now. That’s partly because FCEVs are not being manufactured on a large enough scale yet. However, a recent report from Ballard and Deloitte China concludes that FCEVs will be cheaper to run than BEVs within a decade.

The FCEV boasts great benefits in areas where BEVs typically struggle. A major drawback of the battery-powered electric vehicle is range anxiety — fears the vehicle won’t travel far enough on a single charge. Because the energy in a fuel cell is much more densely packed, these vehicles can offer much better range without the need to refuel.

The FCEV also offers superior charging times. A major drawback for BEVs is the excessive charging time, with vehicles often taking hours to fully charge despite shorter ranges. In contrast, a hydrogen vehicle can be fuelled in roughly the same time it would take to add fuel to your traditional diesel or petrol vehicle.

These factors matter more for some vehicles than for others. At Pailton Engineering, we provide bespoke steering system solutions to a range of different vehicle manufacturers. Speaking from the perspective of someone who works closely with bus manufacturers and commercial vehicle manufacturers, the current debate between advocates of BEVs and FCEVs is too heavily skewed in favour of passenger cars.

Range anxiety and charging time are problematic for all of us, but if you have a fleet of heavy goods vehicles travelling long distances, the benefits of longer ranges are more apparent. To help alleviate range anxiety for these large vehicles, lightweighting is a big trend in zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, as less weight requires less energy to haul it.

Similarly, if you’re aiming to replace a fleet of diesel-powered buses with a green alternative, the fact that hydrogen-powered buses take so much less time to charge is an obvious selling point.

By asking which of these two technologies is superior, we risk falling into the trap of always seeing them in competition. That need not be the case. The answer will depend on which sector we’re talking about and the specific needs of any given vehicle manufacturer. If there was room for petrol and diesel, then why not electric and hydrogen?

It’s impossible to predict precisely what percentage of our transportation fleet will be accounted for by hydrogen vehicles by 2050. In the medium term, BEVs are likely to maintain their lead over their hydrogen equivalents in the automobile market. In other sectors, however, the picture is quite different. Both technologies are good bets. For manufacturers of buses, trucks and commercial vehicles, it will be important to recognise that both batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will probably play an important part in our greener future.

NextEra Energy to Build Its First Green Hydrogen Plant in Florida


Florida_Beach_Coast_XL_Shutterstock_721_420_80_s_c1The emerging green hydrogen market could open new opportunities for NextEra to use its renewable power.

 

Largest U.S. renewables generator “really excited” about green hydrogen, reveals plans for $65 million pilot plant for Florida Power & Light.

NextEra Energy is closing its last coal-fired power unit and investing in its first green hydrogen facility.

Through its Florida Power & Light utility, NextEra will propose a $65 million pilot in the Sunshine State that will use a 20-megawatt electrolyzer to produce 100 percent green hydrogen from solar power, the company revealed on Friday.

The project, which could be online by 2023 if it receives approval from state regulators, would represent the first step into green hydrogen for NextEra Energy, by far the largest developer and operator of wind, solar and battery plants in North America.

“We’re really excited about hydrogen, in particular when we think about getting not to a net-zero emissions profile but actually to a zero-emissions carbon profile,” NextEra Energy CFO Rebecca Kujawa said on Friday’s earnings call.

“When we looked at this five or 10 years ago and thought about what it would take to get to true zero emissions, we were worried it was extraordinarily expensive for customers,” Kujawa said.

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“What makes us really excited about hydrogen — particularly in the 2030 and beyond timeframe — is the potential to supplement a significant deployment of renewables [and energy storage]. That last amount of emissions you’d take out of the system to get down to zero could be most economically served by hydrogen.”

Green hydrogen plans taking off around the world

Although still in its infancy as a market, the concept of green hydrogen is rapidly catching on globally as a potentially viable way to fully decarbonize energy systems, taking them beyond where simple renewable power generation alone can go even at very high penetrations.

The green hydrogen produced by Florida Power & Light’s electrolyzers would be used to replace a portion of the natural gas that’s consumed by the turbines at FPL’s existing 1.75-gigawatt Okeechobee gas-fired plant, Kujawa said. The electricity will come from solar power that would otherwise have been “clipped,” or gone unused.

If the hydrogen economy scales up and green hydrogen becomes economic, Florida Power & Light would likely retrofit some of its gas facilities to run wholly or partially on hydrogen, Kujawa said.

Most of the vast quantities of hydrogen produced globally today use fossil fuels as a feedstock, generating substantial emissions in the process. In contrast, green hydrogen is made using renewables to power the electrolysis of water, throwing off no CO2 emissions.

Whichever way it’s produced, hydrogen can be used for a variety of purposes, from swapping in for natural gas in thermal power plants to powering fuel cells used to move cars and ships. (For more background, read GTM’s green hydrogen explainer.)

The EU recently set a target of installing 40 gigawatts of electrolyzers within its borders by 2030 to produce green hydrogen, as it charts a path to net-zero.

Air Products, the world’s leading hydrogen producer, recently announced a massive green hydrogen plant to be built in Saudi Arabia, powered by 4 gigawatts of wind and solar. And last week California-based fuel-cell maker Bloom Energy sent its shares soaring by announcing its launch into the commercial hydrogen market.

For NextEra, hydrogen represents not only an opportunity to help decarbonize its FPL utility but also a potential new market for the wind and solar power it generates across North America.

NextEra will start with the same “toe in the water” approach it took with solar and batteries, Kujawa said. “While the investments are expected to be small in the context of our overall capital program, we are excited about the technology’s long-term potential, which should further support future demand for low-cost renewables as well as accelerating the decarbonization of transportation fuel and industrial feedstocks.”

Florida Power & Light’s push into green hydrogen comes just weeks after the utility announced it plans to exit its 847-megawatt portion of Georgia’s Plant Scherer, the largest operating coal-fired power plant in the U.S. — and the last remaining coal unit in NextEra’s portfolio.

CEO Robo’s thoughts on the election

NextEra CEO Jim Robo was asked on the earnings call what impact could come from November’s election, with Joe Biden pledging to push policies aimed at fully decarbonizing the U.S. power supply by 2035 and the Democratic platform promising a near-term surge of renewables.

NextEra will be “positioned really well regardless of who wins in November,” Robo said.

“You can remember back close to four years ago … there was some turmoil around our stock when President Trump was elected. We’ve managed to completely be fine under this administration in terms of being able to continue to grow our renewable business, because you know: it’s all about economics.”

“The time for renewables is now and that kind of transcends politics, frankly,” Robo said. “Obviously, we watch [political outcomes] closely. We think good clean energy policy is important and the right policy for America in the future.”

MIT: Lighting the Way to Better Battery Technology


MIT New Battery 0720 Supratim_Das_9Supratim Das is determined to demystify lithium-ion batteries, by first understanding their flaws.  Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

Doctoral candidate Supratim Das wants the world to know how to make longer-lasting batteries that charge mobile phones and electric cars.

Supratim Das’s quest for the perfect battery began in the dark. Growing up in Kolkata, India, Das saw that a ready supply of electric power was a luxury his family didn’t have. “I wanted to do something about it,” Das says. Now a fourth-year PhD candidate in MIT chemical engineering who’s months away from defending his thesis, he’s been investigating what causes the batteries that power the world’s mobile phones and electric cars to deteriorate over time.

Lithium-ion batteries, so-named for the movement of lithium ions that make them work, power most rechargeable devices today. The element lithium has properties that allow lithium-ion batteries to be both portable and powerful; the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who helped develop them in the late 1970s. But despite their widespread use, lithium-ion batteries, essentially a black box during operation, harbor mysteries that prevent scientists from unlocking their full potential. Das is determined to demystify them, by first understanding their flaws.

In principle, rechargeable batteries shouldn’t expire. In practice, however, they can only be recharged a finite number of times before they lose their ability to hold a charge. An ordinary battery eventually stops working when the terminals of the battery — called electrodes — are permanently altered by the ions passing from one terminal of the battery to the other. In a rechargeable battery, the electrodes recover when an external charger sends those ions back where they came from.

Lithium ion batteries work the same way. Typically, one electrode is made of graphite, and the other of lithium compounds with transition metals such as iron, cobalt, or nickel. At the lithium electrode, lithium atoms part ways with their electrons, swim through the battery fluid (electrolyte), and wait at the other electrode. Meanwhile, the electrons take the long way around. They flow out the battery, through a device that needs the power, and into the second electrode, where they rejoin the lithium ions. When a mobile phone is plugged in to be charged, the ions and electrons retrace their steps, and the battery can be used again.

When a battery is charged, however, not all the lithium ions make it back. Every charging cycle leaves ions straggling at the graphite electrode, and the battery loses capacity over time. Das found this perplexing, because it meant that draining a phone’s battery didn’t harm it, but recharging it did. He addressed this conundrum in a couple of open-access academic publications in 2019.

There was also another problem. When a battery is “fast-charged” — a feature that comes with many of the latest electronics — lithium ions start layering (plating) over the carbon electrode, instead of transporting (intercalating) into the material. Prolonged lithium plating can cause uncontrolled growth of fractal-like dendrites. This can cause short-circuiting, even fires.

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In his doctoral research, Das and collaborators have been able to understand the microscopic changes that degrade a battery’s electrodes over its lifetime, and develop multiscale physics-based models to predict them in a robust manner at the macro-scale.

Such multiscale models can aid battery manufacturers to substantially reduce battery health diagnostics costs before it is incorporated into a device, and make batteries safer for consumers. In his latest project, he’s using that knowledge to investigate the best way of charging a lithium-ion battery without damaging it. Das hopes his contributions help scientists achieve further breakthroughs in battery science and make batteries safer, especially when the latest technology is often closely guarded by private companies. “What our group is trying to do is improve the quality of open access academic literature,” Das says. “So that when other people are trying to start their research in batteries, they don’t have to start at the theory from five to 10 years ago.”

Das is well-placed to walk between the worlds of academia and industry.

As an undergraduate in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Das learned that chemical engineers could use equations and experiments to invent technology like drugs and semi-conductors. “Just the fact that here I was in college, learning something that gave me the power to potentially impact the lives of N number of people in a positive manner, was utterly fascinating to me,” Das says. He also interned at a consumer goods company, where he realized that academia would allow him more freedom to pursue ambitious ideas.

In his sophomore year, Das wrote to a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, seeking an opportunity to do research. He flew out that summer, and spent weeks learning about high-power lithium-ion batteries. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Das recalls. He returned to his coursework, but the idea of working on batteries had taken hold. “I never thought that something I can do with my own hands can potentially make impact at the scale that battery technology does,” Das says. He continued working on research projects and made key contributions in the field of multiphase chemical reaction engineering during his undergraduate degree, and eventually wound up applying to the graduate program at MIT.

In his second year of graduate work, Das spent a semester as a technical consultant for Shell in Houston, Texas and Emirates Global Aluminum in Dubai. There, he learned lessons that would prove invaluable in his graduate work. “It taught me problem formulation,” Das says. “Identifying what is relevant for stakeholders; what to work on so as to best use the team’s skill sets; how to distribute your time.”

After Das’s experience in the field, he discovered that as a scientist he could share valuable knowledge about battery research and the future of the technology with energy economists. He also realized that policymakers considered their own criteria when investing in technology for the future.

Das believed that such a perspective would help him inform policy decisions as a scientist, so he decided that after completing his PhD, he would pursue an MBA focusing on energy economics and policy at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “It will allow me to contribute more to society if I’m able to act as a bridge between someone who understands the hardcore, microscopic physics of a battery, and someone who understands the economic and policy implications of introducing that battery into a vehicle or a grid,” Das says.

Das believes that the program, which begins next fall, will allow him to work with other energy experts who bring their own knowledge and skills to the table. He understands the power of collaboration well: at college, Das was elected president of a dorm of 450-plus residents and worked with students and administration to introduce new facilities and events on campus. After arriving in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Das helped other students manage Ashdown House, represented chemical engineering students on the Graduate Student Advisory Board, and served in the leadership team for the MIT Energy Club, spearheading the organization of MIT EnergyHack 2019.

He also launched a community service initiative within the Department of Chemical Engineering; once a week, students mentor school children and volunteer at nonprofits in Cambridge. He was able to attract funding for his initiative and was awarded by the department for successfully mobilizing 80-plus students in the community within the span of a year. “I’m constantly surprised at what we can achieve when we work with other people,” Das says.

After all, other people have helped Das make it this far. “I owe a lot of success to a number of sacrifices my mom made for me, including giving up her own career,” he says. At MIT, he feels fortunate to have met mentors like his advisor, Martin Bazant, and Practice School directors Robert Fisher and Brian Stutts, and the many colleagues who have offered answers to his questions. “Here, I’ve discovered what it means to synergize with really smart people who are really passionate — and really nice at the same time,” Das says. “Grateful is the one word I’d use.”

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