ChE's Ethan Adams awarded a 2022 Department of Defense SMART Scholarship
Ethan Adams, a third-year Ph.D student in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, has received the Department of Defense (DOD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship for his research on low-temperature batteries. This highly prestigious award will provide Ethan with full tuition, a stipend, summer internships, and a full-time position with the DOD Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Philadelphia where he also completed a summer internship in 2021.
“Ethan does very special work to make batteries work at temperatures below zero degrees Celsius for modest applications. Our dream is to make the batteries that work at very cold conditions. And he has had pretty good success,” Ethan’s advisor, Dr. Vilas Pol said, Professor at Purdue University’s Davidson School of Chemical Engineering and Purdue Faculty Scholar.
Dr. Tom Adams, a research engineer with NSWC – Crane Division, who works with both Dr. Pol and Ethan said, “His research and the research that the group is doing, it’s disruptive research, meaning it’s a game changer.”
Dr. Pol and Dr. Adams have worked together on previously funded projects to develop advanced Lithium Sulfur (Li-S) battery technology funded by the Office of Naval Research Defense University Research-to-Adoption (ONR-DURA) program. Ethan’s previous work on fuel cell technology and the real-world application of Dr. Pol and Dr. Adam’s research is what attracted him to the chemical engineering PhD program at Purdue.
“If you're going to do research, you should try to dream big and that's always been something I've liked about Dr. Pol’s ideology behind research,” Ethan said.
Ethan’s work is mostly focused on Navy submarine and autonomous underwater vehicles; however, this technology will address the growing need for low-temperature batteries that can be used for space applications, high-altitude drones, electric vehicles and portable devices according Dr. Pol’s website. Ethan’s SMART scholarship application included a plan of study to implement different strategies to improve the formulation of the electrolytes to perform at sub-zero temperatures.
“The main limitation is, once a battery is exposed to temperatures below -40 to -50 degrees Celsius, you start to see increasingly significant effects on the overall capacity and charging rate,” Ethan explained, “I’ve been working with the electrolytes, the liquid in most batteries, to improve the traditional composition that is used for batteries in watches, phones, and computers and modify it, similar to the modifications made for the Tesla batteries, by using different additives so that the battery will charge and discharge even at extremely low temperatures.”
According to the SMART Program’s website, the SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program, funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for STEM students to create a highly skilled DoD STEM workforce that competes with the dynamic trends in technology and innovation to protect national security.