Featured Multi-Investigator Grants

The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research recently awarded a four-year, $1.4 million grant to Physics professor Alex Demkov, with collaborators John Ekerdt (UT Austin) and David Smith (Arizona State University). The grant provides funding to establish the fundamental scientific framework required for development of a revolutionary class of oxide heterostructures capable of harnessing the functionality of two-dimensional electron gas under extreme thermomechanical conditions. These structures most likely will be used as various sensors to detect heat, strain, and electromagnetic fields. The team consists of a materials physicist, a materials chemist and an electron microscopist. The multidisciplinary structure of the team is the key element to the team’s approach at developing these new oxide heterostructures.

Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC)
The Department of Energy’s University of Texas at Austin Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC): “Understanding Charge Separation and Transfer at Interfaces in Energy Materials (EFRC:CST),” is focused on advancing the understanding and design of nanostructured molecular materials for organic photovoltaic (OPV) and electrical energy storage (EES) applications. OPV materials, including solar cells, and EES materials, including batteries for all-electric vehicles, are highly promising for future energy needs. The EFRC:CST is directed by Professor Peter Rossky and is composed of faculty members from UT’s College of Natural Sciences and Cockrell School of Engineering, as well as partnering researchers from Sandia National Laboratories. Approximately thirty graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are
supported by the EFRC:CST each year.

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MURI: Materials and Manufacturing Science & Engineering of Direct Methanol Fuel Cells
MURI: Materials and Manufacturing Science & Engineering of Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC) is sponsored by the office of Naval Research and is led by The University of Texas at Austin with collaboration from Stanford University. With a significantly higher energy density compared to the lithium ion batteries, DMFC has the potential to reduce significantly the weight of the power sources soldiers have to carry for long missions and portable electronic devices like laptops. More importantly, DMFC can provide uninterrupted power continuously without requiring an electrical outlet. Directed by Prof. Arumugam Manthiram, nine University of Texas faculty and thirteen University of Texas students and post-doctoral researchers are studying a range of key roadblocks to the development of viable DMFCs.

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NSF Materials Interdisciplinary Research Team (MIRT)
A University of Texas at Austin team was awarded nearly $3M to fund a NSF Materials Interdisciplinary Research Team (MIRT) grant in the inaugural year of this program. Prof. Arumugam
Manthiram leads a team of six University of Texas faculty and one faculty from the University of Virginia in Exploring Unusual Properties of Transition Metal Oxides. These materials are vital to the development of a broad range of technologies, including everything from cell phones to large-scale energy storage. The goal of their research is to gain a profound fundamental understanding of the physics and chemistry involved in controlling the properties of transition-metal oxides. The oxides exhibit many unusual properties, ranging from best electrical insulators to best conductors, including high-temperature superconductors.

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NSF Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT)
Professor Benny Freeman is leading a team of five University of Texas faculty engaged in multi-disciplinary NSF Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) grant exploring and developing new nano-composite membranes, based on polymers containing a new family of active nano-particles (NPs) that synergistically enhance the membrane’s gas separation and catalytic capabilities. Applications for nano-structured membranes include separating different gas molecules and chemically changing species using a catalytic reaction. They are investigating two key applications: olefin-paraffin separation and the purification of H2 gas by elimination of CO, a contaminant.

NSF/DOE Thermoelectric Partnership Grant
Four University of Texas faculty led by Professor Li Shi are studying High-Performance Thermoelectric Devices Based on Abundant Silicide Materials for Vehicle Waste Heat Recovery through a
NSF/DOE Thermoelectric Partnership Grant. This grant addresses four elements that are critical for successful implementation of thermoelectric devices for waste heat recovery from vehicle exhaust. These include development of new thermoelectric materials, system-level modeling, heat sink development, and reduction of thermal and electric resistances at material-material interfaces.

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