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U.S. Navy awards Purdue $3 million to advance alternative energy-related research, course development efforts

U.S. Navy awards Purdue $3 million to advance alternative energy-related research, course development efforts

Magazine Section: Breaking News
Article Type: Feature
Purdue University researchers will tackle several alternative energy-related projects for the U.S. Navy and develop a power and energy course through a grant of nearly $3 million from the Office of Naval Research.

Purdue University researchers will tackle several alternative energy-related projects for the U.S. Navy and develop a power and energy course through a grant of nearly $3 million from the Office of Naval Research.

The Navy Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence (NEPTUNE) will support the launch of Purdue’s NEPTUNE Power and Energy Research Center and seven research projects along with the new course, which will begin in spring 2016 at Purdue.

“As a leading research institution with engineering, technology and scientific strengths in many areas of energy, Purdue is proud to contribute in any way we can to our national security and those who give of themselves to ensure it,” says Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “These research and learning efforts will build on the more than 600 research projects valued at $80 million that Purdue and the Navy have partnered on during the past decade.”

The Office of Naval Research is providing $2 million over two years to fund the NEPTUNE project. The Purdue-Navy projects are the outgrowth of a memorandum of understanding signed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Daniels in 2014.

“Three of my key strategic goals are Take Care of Our People, Lead the Nation in Sustainable Energy and Drive Innovative Enterprise Transformation,” Mabus says. “NEPTUNE will advance all of these by simultaneously supporting world-class energy research and professional education for our military personnel.

“This combination of advanced research with professional development will create an enduring culture of energy innovation within the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Purdue University aeronautics and astronautics professor Timothée Pourpoint and doctoral student Joshua Mathews prepare a hydrogen-generation experiment at the Hydrogen Systems Laboratory in connection with a project for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for developing reliable and robust portable power sources for electronics and expeditionary forces.
(Purdue University photo provided)

A key Purdue-Navy proposal, receiving $293,000 from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), focuses on multidimensional gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. Aviation technology professor Gozdem Kilaz and Bruce Cooper, senior scientist at Bindley Bioscience Center, will study the different sources of biomass-biofuel and research the relationship between their chemical composition and fuel performance.

The Navy and Marine Corps have a goal to convert half of their energy consumption to alternative sources, including biofuels, by 2020. The alternate fuels also must work in diesel engines.

Another Purdue team is receiving a three-year $600,000 grant from the Navy and Marine Corps Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education, Outreach and Workforce Program to develop the interdisciplinary course for college juniors, seniors and graduate students.

The course, titled “Power and Energy: A STEM Program to Inspire Leadership in Science and Technology for the Workforce of the Future Fleet,” will address the need for a more competitive STEM workforce in the military. It will touch on topics such as the global connectedness between technology and threats and a goal to emphasize interdisciplinary “team science” for assisting the Navy in maintaining technical superiority of its future fleet.

This effort is led by Maureen McCann, director of the Energy Center and a professor of biological sciences; Eric Dietz, director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and a Purdue Polytechnic Institute professor; and Pankaj Sharma, managing director of the Energy Center who also has a courtesy faculty appointment with Purdue Polytechnic.

Navy personnel, ROTC students and military veterans will be engaged to participate in the energy-related research projects supporting a total of 13 graduate students, one postdoctoral student and 12 undergraduate students. The seven NEPTUNE research projects receiving funding through the Navy-Purdue partnership are outlined below:

  • Development of low-cost, high-performance electrode materials for Na-ion batteries. Led by materials engineering professor Jeffrey Youngblood and chemical engineering professor Vilas Pol, this project will advance research on sodium-ion batteries, which rely on abundant, low-cost materials and can be stored and shipped safely, even by airplane.
  • Low-cost catalyst for portable hydrogen generation and on-demand power. This project, led by aeronautics and astronautics professor Timothée Pourpoint and test engineer Jason Gabl, is focused on developing reliable and robust portable power sources for electronics and expeditionary forces.
  • Heterogeneous surface wettability for manipulation of dry-out hydrodynamics and bubble departure during high-heat-flux boiling. The team, led by Suresh Garimella, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and mechanical engineering professor Justin Weibel, will help address the military’s need to mitigate the deterioration of electrical performance and reliability of devices and equipment at high temperatures. To combat this, the team will focus on transformative cooling strategies and better thermal management of naval platforms for higher power density gadgets, radar electronics and weapons systems.
  • Fundamental studies on composition/performance correlations for aviation fuels. Distinguished chemistry professor Hilkka Kenttmaa, materials engineering professor Rodney Trice and aviation technology professor Gozdem Kilaz will work to identify the best fuels for various military applications without expensive testing. They will study hot corrosion techniques and combine experimental data with quantum chemical calculations to develop predictive models so fuel manufacturers can “tune” products for specific applications.
  • Toward vetted sensing and control system firmware and software. Computer science professors Dongyan Xu and Xiangyu Zhang, working with the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, will perform risk analysis and vetting of the Navy’s integrated sensor/controller computer firmware. The project also focuses on systems widely deployed in ship and shore infrastructures, such as on-board or on-shore power generation and supply, vessel navigation and autonomic avionics.
  • Gallium nitride interface engineering for naval radio frequency power electronics applications via atomic layer epitaxy. Electrical and computer engineering professors Peide Ye and Peter Bermel, both at Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, will work on the development of novel GaN RF high-speed power electronic devices and systems, advancing improved characteristics of III-N insulated gate transistors for radars and communication, navigation and munitions electronics.
  • Unlocking the chemistry of the amine-thiol universal solvent system for solution processed, flexible electronic devices. Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Kenttmaa will lead this effort to accelerate development of wearable flexible and lightweight electronics such as solar cells, batteries and sensors. Electronic devices currently mass-produced require hard substrates and slow and costly vacuum-based processing. The team will deploy solution processing, which allows cost-effective, roll-to-roll and rapid fabrication of flexible electronic devices.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment and the ONR established the NEPTUNE pilot program with funding from ONR to provide professional education and development for the military community through participation in university based research projects.

McCann says Purdue was chosen to be a lead university in the NEPTUNE pilot because of its strengths in basic science and engineering research and a commitment to providing educational opportunities to current, former and future members of the military.

Through the agreement signed by Daniels and Mabus, Purdue and the Navy and Marine Corps pledged to examine efforts designed to improve energy conservation, renewable-energy generation and the implementation of energy-efficient technologies in all areas of application.

Purdue also established the Purdue Military Research Initiative, an annual, no-cost graduate education for up to 10 active-duty officers across all branches of the U.S. military. Areas of study include renewable energy, alternative fuels and energy technologies.

Mabus, who was appointed the 75th Secretary of the Navy in 2009, immediately made energy and energy security a priority for the Navy by directing the Navy and Marine Corps to change the way they use, produce and acquire energy. Mabus is responsible for an annual budget in excess of $170 billion and the leadership of almost 900,000 people.