University of Louisville
CC Reporter

Above: Research innovation! Dr. Delaina Amos explores low-cost lighting with quantum dots.

Conn Center/ChemE faculty member receives ARPA-E MOVE grant

Dr. Moises Carreon’s group at University of Louisville and his collaborators from the Gas Technology Institute and University of South Carolina are developing novel adsorbent materials to increase natural gas (NG) storage and smart usage for vehicles. Their project, entitled, “Nano-valved sorbent system for reversible natural gas storage,” is one of the 13 projects selected for funding by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) through their “Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy” (MOVE) initiative. Dr. Carreon and his team proposed a system maintaining a low pressure and high capacity. By using spherical absorbent bulbs that act as sponges, Dr. Carreon predicts a low-pressure system can hold a very high density of NG fuel. These bulbs have the potential to hold 0.5 kilograms of methane per kilogram of the sorbent, giving them an energy density of 12.5 mega Joules per liter. This energy density is similar to compressed natural gas, but less than that of gasoline (34MJ/Liter) and diesel (36MJ/Liter).

NG has great importance for transportation applications and US energy security. Its benefits include producing 11% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. NG does not combust outside 5 to 15% concentration, so there is a low chance of explosions during collisions. NG is abundant in the United States and has the potential to replace our imported gasoline supply. Currently, one third of our power demand is for transportation sector fuels, and over 70% of our gasoline supply is imported. Most importantly, the infrastructure for NG storage and distribution is already available.

One major issue hinders the use of natural gas as a motor vehicle fuel. For a vehicle to carry an adequate volume of NG comparable to gasoline or diesel, the NG must be compressed to a very high pressure. Tanks rated for this pressure are very heavy, and that weight impairs vehicle fuel economy and functionality. Dr. Carreon will investigate reducing the pressure at which natural gas is stored in high density. A low-pressure system will allow the wall thickness of the storage tanks to be greatly reduced, thus reducing weight and restoring vehicle fuel economy. The overall significance of Dr. Carreon’s work will eventually enable an alternative fuel source that is highly competitive with gasoline with a cost equivalent of $1.78 per gallon.

This is not the first research on low-pressure natural gas containment. In 2007, a University of Missouri team undertook research to make a low-pressure natural gas system using carbon briquettes with a high surface area made from scraps of corncob. The briquettes allow the pressure to be reduced to 500 psi, which corresponds to one-seventh of the pressure of previous natural gas systems. ANG Containment and Delivery Systems Inc. was contracted by the university to mass produce the carbon briquettes. However, ANG was unable to manufacture them by the same process from the laboratory, so the project stalled. One professor at the university explained, “You need to make sure you have a way to manufacture it. It’s one thing to make something in a laboratory; it’s another thing to make it in a big production facility.

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Student-built exhibits featured in Capital Education Center

Students from the Summer 2012 Renewable Energy Challenges course got the opportunity to develop their class projects into permanent educational exhibits. Following an invitation from Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear, Dr. Mahendra Sunkara pushed his class of undergrad and grad students to build their final projects for inclusion in a new educational space in Frankfort – the Capital Education Center. The center is a repurposed steam building that has undergone extensive rehabilitation by the state to maximize and feature its net-zero efficiency. Improvements include high R-factor insulation, recycled building materials, solar panels, a heat pipe array, wind turbine, and a green roof, among others.

Jane Beshear’s vision is for the space to be a fun yet educational stop for the thousands of school children from across the state who visit the capital annually. She invited the schools of engineering from the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky to produce interactive educational exhibits to demonstrate renewable energy concepts. Sunkara, who formed the RE Challenges course with 6 UofL faculty in 2009, posed the challenge to his students, who responded with enthusiasm. The class split into teams and built seven prototype displays, including: 1) a hand crank assembly that powers different light bulbs (C. Woodbury & J. Bible); 2) a windmill that powers LED lighting (A. Trenkamp & C. Mason); 3) a hand powered heat sink display (A. Hanley, M. Zhu & Z. Xie); 4) a solar car racetrack (A. Bube, J. Chapman & E. Riuz); 5) a hydro pump see-saw (M. Ahmadi & A. Martinez-Garcia); 6) a miniature grid with black out issues (I. Alalq & M. Dettlinger); and 7) a large hand powered Archimedes Screw that generates electricity (C. Miralda & P. Kroeger). Once the prototypes were complete, the Conn Center teamed up with the Louisville Science Center’s Jael Harrington, who transformed a number of the prototypes into durable exhibits for the Capital Education Center.

Elizabeth Schmitz, Executive Director of the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, coordinated the transformation of the education center for the state. “Our goal is to engage the school children while they visit the capital and get them thinking about energy. These exhibits do just that by transforming the kids’ energy through solar, hydro, wind, and variable efficiency models of energy production. They are very enthusiastic with the exhibits.”

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Technology Leaders Meet to Discuss Progress and Future of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RE3) in Louisville

The 2013 Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency (RE3) Workshop, held March 24-26 in downtown Louisville, KY, brought together top minds currently focused on research and commercialization for solar energy, biofuels, advanced energy materials, energy efficiency, and energy storage. Over 250 people from across the region participated in the three-day event, which was sponsored by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, LG&E, Brown-Forman, Clariant Inc., KY EPSCoR program, KY Clean Fuels Coalition, Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence (DEDI), Welder’s Supply, FEI, Alternative Energies Kentucky, and Advanced Energy Materials, LLC.

Dr. James Ramsey, University of Louisville President, and Dr. Neville Pinto, Speed School of Engineering Dean, opened the workshop by highlighting the university, state, and federal challenges toward supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency research. Their remarks reinforced the need for diversification and innovation in energy resources, and set a positive tone for the work in progress at institutions and businesses across the state.  An international slate of speakers presented the latest in research findings, policy developments, and technology successes from numerous national and university labs, federal programs, and industries.

Three short courses were offered on: 1) tools for materials genome research; 2) standard research practices in materials R&D for renewables; and 3) manufacturing R&D for the energy sector. Forty-five eminent speakers gave engaging lecture presentations while participants enjoyed industry exhibit booths, a research poster competition, and panel discussions on commercialization challenges, the Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy, and renewable energy frontiers.

The entire workshop was captured on video and will soon be available at for extended viewing. Those interested can also see the 2011 workshop in its entirety at

Due to the high demand for commercialization information that arose from this workshop, the Conn Center plans to host an RE3 Workshop in 2014 on entrepreneurship and policy. We hope everyone will spread the word and consider returning to Louisville to further expound on these topics.

The 2013 RE3 Workshop was organized by the Conn Center of Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville with faculty from the University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, Eastern Kentucky University, and Western Kentucky University in addition to representatives from the Commonwealth of Kentucky DEDI, the Kentucky/Argonne Battery Manufacturing R&D Center, and Clariant Inc.

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Conn Center/ChemE faculty’s research on low cost lighting covered in Chemistry & Industry Journal

By Helen Carmichael, High efficiency OLEDs, C&I, July 2013, page 6
Combining OLEDs with inorganic quantum dots – tiny semiconductor crystals that emit different colours of light depending on their size – boosts the efficiency of light-emitting devices, and stretches the range of colours produced. But these hybrid OLEDs, or quantum dot LEDs (QD-LEDs), have not yet taken off commercially, due to the cost and complexity of their manufacture.

University of Louisville, Kentucky, US, researchers are now developing new materials and methods to make them more affordable, they reported in June 2013 at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) in San Jose, California, US.
A quantum dot layer along with a conductive polymer layer form the filling sandwiched between the anode and cathode in the new QD-LED device. The conjugated polymer–quantum dot interface is vital because it injects carriers (holes and electrons) into the polymer–semiconductor layers.

The group uses CdSe/ZnS and CdSe quantum dots, says principal investigator Delaina Amos. "We have developed several different synthetic routes including a modified hot injection technique for CdSe synthesis at low temperature and an all aqueous 'green' technique for CdSe."

Inkjet printing allows accurate control of the interfaces between the conductive polymer layer and the quantum dot nanocrystals. The group hopes that this mastery of surface morphology will improve electron-hole transport, and ultimately device performance – offering more efficient, visible light. "The inkjet printing approaches we are developing are of commercial interest, because of the scalability of the approach and the associated cost savings over traditional vacuum processed OLEDs," Amos says.

The team is working on synthesis routes for earth abundant quantum dot materials that will absorb and emit visible light, but which do not contain heavy metals like cadmium or lead. "Ultimately we want to have low cost, low toxicity, and the ability to make flexible devices," Amos says. In the EU, cadmium embedded quantum dots will be banned after 2016.

Some experts, like University of Oxford professor of electrical engineering Jong Min Kim, believe that ultimately QD-LED devices will need to eliminate any organic layer altogether. "I recommend 100% QD layers eventually, rather than polymer or organic embedded QDs for future ultimate lighting with high current density," he says. "Concerns with OLED lighting include their reliability, since no method has yet eliminated water vapour and oxygen, which can cause OLEDs to burn out," he says.

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Conn Center Postdoc Profiles

Conn Center has recruited seven post-doctoral fellows to advance research and development in several themes at the Center. Meet these dynamic researchers!

Arjun Thapa, PhD, focuses on solutions for the development of energy storage technologies.

He received his doctorate in applied chemistry from Saga University, Japan, in 2007. His thesis was on the development of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries and megalo-capacitance capacitors. He holds an ME (2004) in applied chemistry from Saga University on halogen doped LiMnx-yO2 cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries and their applications in energy storage systems at elevated temperature. He also holds a MSc in physical chemistry (1999) and a BSc in chemistry (1995), both from Tribhuvan University in Nepal. He served as a post-doctoral researcher at the Advance Research Center at Saga University from 2007 to 2008, where he developed a novel energy system using graphitic carbon. In 2008, he became a post-doctoral researcher at Kyushu University in Japan and was a major contributor on preparations of mesoporous cathode catalyst electrodes for Lithium-air batteries and their application in energy storage systems.

Arjun is the author/co-author of 17 original research papers in the areas of capacitors, lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries, as well as novel cathode and anode systems. Among his awards are a Global Center of Excellence Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry at Kyushu University (2008-09) and a Gold Medal for the Inter-Faculty Badminton Tournament at Tribhuvan University (1999). His research includes: synthesis of cathode catalysts and their application in rechargeable lithium-air batteries; synthesis of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries and its application in hybrid cars, electric vehicles, and plug in electric vehicles; and the study of dual carbon batteries, capacitors, and various energy storage systems.

Mayank Gupta, PhD, conducts research on: a) conversion of biomass to hydrolyzates; b) conversion of hydrolyzates to fuels and value-added chemicals; and c) ultra-deep desulfurization studies using novel catalysts.

He received his doctorate in chemical engineering from Louisiana State University Baton Rouge in 2010. His previous work included conversion of biomass-derived syngas to higher value products (liquid fuels and oxygenates); development, characterization, and testing of atomically tailored nanocatalysts for the catalytic conversion of syngas to ethanol and higher alcohols; and synthesis, testing, and characterization of novel electrodeposited nanowire/tube catalysts.

Dr. Gupta is the author/co-author of seven original research papers in the areas of electrochemistry, catalysis, and pulp & paper engineering. He is also an author of a book chapter on clean fuels. He serves as a co-editor of Catalysis book series (Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK).

Robert Lupitskyy, PhD, investigates novel methods and materials for preparation of photoanodes in dye-sensitized solar cells and new routes for conversion of industrial waste into biofuels.

He received his doctorate in chemistry from the Clarkson University in 2009 and worked on several projects related to fabrication of responsive polymer surfaces on planar substrates and nanoparticles. He also holds an MS (1997) and a BS (1996) in chemical engineering from the National University Lvivska Polytechnika, Lviv, Ukraine. He worked as a graduate research assistant in the Nanostructured Materials Group at Clarkson University from 2003 to 2009, where he developed functionalized responsive nanoparticles for applications in coatings, emulsion stabilization, and sensing. He was a research & development intern at Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, OH during 2007, where he worked on synthesis and application of polymer-coated nanoparticles as foam enhancers in laundry detergent formulation. From 2009 to 2010, he worked as a post-doctoral associate at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, where he studied the effect of aging of silver nanoparticles on enhancement of Raman scattering.

Robert is the author/co-author of 13 original research papers in the area of thin polymer films, nanoparticles, and surface modification. His research interests include application of nanomaterials for solar energy harvesting and extraction of add-value products from industrial waste.

Ruvini Dharmadasa, PhD, synthesizes and characterizes semiconductor nanoparticles for the development of nanostructured and thin film solar cells.

She received her doctorate in chemistry from Loughborough University, UK, in 2012 and worked on the fabrication and characterization of extremely thin absorber layer (ETA) solar cells. She used a variety of growth techniques to fabricate metal oxide and chalcogenide semiconductor nanoparticles. These techniques included aerosol-assisted chemical vapor deposition (AACVD) and solution-based methods such as chemical bath deposition (CBD) and electrochemical deposition (ED). She also holds an MSc (2007) in energy conversion and management from the University of Nottingham, UK, and an MEng (2006) in chemical engineering and chemistry from the University of Sheffield, UK. After finishing her doctorate, she served as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Physics at Parma University, Italy, where she worked on the fabrication and characterization of thin film CdS/CdTe and CIGSe solar cells using closed spaced sublimation and RF magnetron sputtering.

Ruvini is the author/co-author of 7 original research papers in the area of photovoltaic device production. Her research in solar cell fabrication now includes the development of low cost solar cells. The aim is to use low temperature and atmospheric deposition techniques that are compatible with roll-to-roll processing technology to produce highly efficient solar cells.

Bill Pandit, PhD, explores solutions for understanding charge transfer in dye-sensitized and organic photovoltaic solar cells using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy (UTAS).

He received his doctorate in physics from University of Utah under the supervision of distinguished Prof. Zeev Valy Vardeny in April 2012. His thesis was on the study of ultrafast photophysics of π- conjugated polymers for organic photovoltaic applications. He holds an MS (2009) from University of Utah, an MSc in Physics (2003) and a BSc in Physics (1999), both from Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Bill is the author/co-author of 5 original research papers in the area of cw/transient spectroscopy study of π- Conjugated polymer films and blends with various acceptor molecules. His research in Conn Center is focused on the understanding of charge transfer process in dye-sensitized solar cells and other novel materials that are applicable in solar cell devices.

Dania Alvarez Fonseca, PhD, develops the best procedures to selectively separate pentoses from biomass using acid hydrolysis and different pretreatments.

She received her doctorate in chemistry from the State University of Campinas (Brazil) in 2003 and worked on a project related to the development, production and evaluation of reversed-phase stationary phases (more stable at high pH) for use in high performance liquid chromatography. She also holds an MS (2001) in analytical chemistry from the State University of Campinas (Brazil) and a BS (1993) in chemistry from the University of Havana (Cuba). She served as a research associate in the EMS Energy Institute at Penn State University from 2007 to 2012, where she was the manager of the chromatography and spectroscopy laboratories and was involved in research and service projects related to the study of fossil fuels, biofuels and refractory samples. She was also a post-doc in the EMS Energy Institute at Penn State University, where she prepared and characterized nanocatalysts and graphitic nanofibers, tailoring their properties for potential applications in hydrogen storage and gas absorption.

Dania is the author/co-author of 13 original research papers in the areas of nanostructures, fuels and chromatography. Her current research includes the synthesis and characterization of novel nanocatalysts for applications in fuels and renewable energy. She also performs analysis of sugars, degradation compounds, and byproducts formed during biomass hydrolysis by using chromatographic methods.

Juan He, PhD, develops a series of new adsorbents for water vapor removal for use in GE Appliances’ sponsored research.

She received her doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2013 and worked on several projects related to toxic gases removal, including evaluation of coal combustion flue gas emission, vapor-phase mercury, arsenic and carbon dioxide capture, and sulfur-tolerant low temperature selective catalytic reduction (SCR) applications. She also holds a BS (2007) in Chemical Engineering from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology. She served as a graduate research assistant in the Adsorption and Ion-Exchange Lab at University of Cincinnati from 2007 to 2013, where she researched room temperature ionic liquid coated nanochelating adsorbents for mercury and CO2 adsorption. She was an engineering intern at the Karamay Oilfield of PetroChina in China during 2006 and 2007, where she worked on ther liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility.

Juan is the author/co-author of three original research papers in the area of adsorption and ion-exchange. Her research in adsorption technologies now includes the synthesis of cost-effective high surface area materials for water molecules storage at certain temperatures, and the energy efficiency evaluation for the adsorption/desorption cycles using these novel adsorbents. These adsorption systems can be safely applied in household appliance design to reduce their energy consumption effectively

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In the next issue

2013 DOE Solar Decathlon Competition: Team Kentuckiana’s “Phoenix House”

New Center Personnel: Robert Hickman, PhD; Eunice Salazar; and Tatiana Krentzel, PhD

Theme Leader search update

Research Highlights from Conn Center

Commercialization in Action: License Package with AdEM, LLC

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