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The Precourt Institute for Energy is part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

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Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy funds 17 novel research projects for $1.8 million

Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, StorageX Initiative and Bits & Watts Initiative selected 17 new energy research projects on campus to fund.

Competitive selection was based on new, potentially transformative ideas for building a sustainable, affordable, secure energy future for the world. The $1.8 million will enable Stanford faculty, as well as five collaborators at other research institutions, to prove their concepts for high-risk, high-reward ideas through initial experiments and study. The research seeks to advance fundamental energy science, technologies, policies and business models.

The Precourt Institute has made such awards annually since 2010. Bits & Watts has done so since 2017. This is the first year of seed grants for the new StorageX Initiative, which is supporting eight teams. Precourt Institute and Bits & Watts funding starts Oct. 1, while StorageX funding began in May.

Precourt Institute for Energy

Preparing for rapid demand changes: Learning from COVID-19 and California wildfires

A wildfire raging on a black hill

PI: Inês Azevedo, Energy Resources Engineering; Co-PIs: Ram Rajagopal and Rishee Jain, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Earth System Science

This team will ascertain how the current pandemic and wildfires have affected electricity use and the electric grid. They will assess different energy services and the overall level of electricity demand by residential, commercial and industrial consumers and estimate the consequences on emissions. The goal is to identify investment, operational changes, and the relevant policy required to prepare future grids for extreme events.

Hybrid materials for CO2 capture and conversion

PI: Matteo Cargnello, Chemical Engineering

This work will try to create new catalysts for the capture and conversion of CO2 for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals. The catalysts will be engineered from metal nanocrystals and organic polymers to create 3D structures that are capable of selective and efficient capture and conversion of CO2. The researchers will study the mechanism by which these catalysts convert CO2 to enable the further design of these materials.

Organometallic electrochemistry: Energy-dense, low-cost, long-duration energy storage

PI: William Chueh, Materials Science & Engineering; Co-PI: Robert Waymouth, Chemistry

The researchers plan to develop a new class of grid-scale flow batteries. The work is based on organometallic electrochemistry and has the potential to dramatically lower costs and increase energy density compared to current chemistries. These batteries use ultra-low cost active materials, have high energy density, can operate at ambient temperatures, and have a chemistry that can be tailored for safety.

Defining and managing oxygen-limitations of soils for negative CO2 emissions

PIs: Scott Fendorf and Rob Jackson, Earth System Science

This new team will investigate the effects of microsites, depleted of oxygen, on soil organic carbon. The researchers will employ and advance a process-based model that incorporates the contribution of these microsites to soil carbon storage and greenhouse gas evolution, inclusive of N2O, CH4, and CO2 emissions. The ultimate goal of this work is to define soil management recommendations to maximize negative CO2 emissions potential.

Environmental and economic impacts of China’s new CO2 emissions trading system

PI: Lawrence Goulder, Economics; Co-PIs: Xiliang Zhang and Da Zhang, Tsinghua University

This project will develop a tool for quantifying the likely environmental and economic impacts of China’s new emissions trading system on the power sector. Environmental impacts will include changes in emissions of CO2 and local air pollutants. Economic impacts will cover changes in production levels, costs, net revenues, and consumer real income. These impacts will be assessed both for the nation as a whole and for individual provinces.

Bits & Watts Initiative

The potential for a U.S. transition to electrified medium- and heavy-duty vehicles

An electrified school bus

PI: Inês Azevedo, Energy Resources Engineering; Co-PIs: Fan Tong and Corinne Scown, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Max Auffhammer, UC–Berkeley

Researchers will estimate monetized damages due to greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollutant emissions for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles over their life cycle under different degrees of electrification in the United States. Different types of policy mechanisms, incentives, and infrastructure investments needed to deploy electrified medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will be assessed. These analyses will be done in the context of current and future grid scenarios.

Using heat pipe thermal management for fast charging EV cables and batteries

PI: Kenneth Goodson, Mechanical Engineering

This project will design and develop a passive heat pipe for aggressive thermal management of fast-charging cables and batteries for electric vehicles. To achieve charging times of a few minutes will require improved electrical, thermal and mechanical redesign and optimizations. The proposed technology aims to reduce the weight of the cable and the energy overhead and the cost and design complexity of the charging station while improving overall reliability.

Second-life EV batteries: Predicting health using physics-informed machine learning methods

PI: Simona Onori, Energy Resources Engineering

This project seeks a new technology to assess the health of retired EV batteries, in terms of capacity, energy and impedance for re-use. Researchers will combine the strengths of electrothermal/aging models along with data driven methods to assess, without any historical data information from the device, the remaining life of the battery and optimize its deployment for secondary life.

Networked Battery Systems Lab: At the intersection of battery systems, IOT and the grid

PIs: Ram Rajagopal, Civil & Environmental Engineering, and Philip Levis, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

This new lab will seek to improve collections of batteries in cars and buildings interconnected by the power grid and by communication networks. Closed and proprietary battery management, and simplistic operation models can hamper the ability to provide high value grid services and coordination. The lab will enable experimentation and exploration of new systems, management and testing in EV charging and grid storage applications.

StorageX Initiative

Climate and health impacts from air pollution from battery production

PI: Inês Azevedo; Co-PIs and Sally Benson and Simona Onori, all Energy Resources Engineering

This project uses an integrated assessment framework to study the monetized health, environmental and climate change effects of battery manufacturing and transport to the end use application for electricity and transportation applications globally. Researchers will include dependency on supply-chain, location of manufacturing and production, and local electricity grid characteristics in their assessment.

Design and analysis of a flexible solid-state electrolyte

PI:  Christian Linder, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Current solid-state electrolytes cannot undergo large deformation due to their brittle nature. An intrinsically flexible solid-state electrolyte with high electrochemical performance is needed. The researchers will develop machine learning algorithms for the discovery of solid-state electrolyte materials with flexibility and high electrochemical performance. They will also study the performance and safety of the electrolyte under mechanical deformation.

Battery pack management system

PI: Simona Onori, Energy Resources Engineering

Efficient use of battery packs requires estimation and control algorithms that can account for the heterogeneities among cells, as well as the large thermal and aging dissimilarities that can be exacerbated, for example, under fast charging conditions. This research aims to model the complex explicit and implicit interactions between cells in a large battery pack through the use of electrochemistry, machine learning and experiments.

Theory-guided data for optimizing electrolyte and interphase in lithium metal batteries

PI:  Jian Qin, Chemical Engineering

This project will develop a data-driven, physics-informed correlation between fundamental material properties and battery performance based on information gathered from high-throughput molecular simulations and continuum transport analyses. By iteratively training the model, beneficial properties of electrolytes will be identified, facilitating the development of safe, reliable lithium metal batteries.

Identifying compatible pairings of solid electrolytes and cathodes for lithium-ion batteries

PI:  Evan Reed; Co-PI: Brandi Ransom, both Materials Science & Engineering

This research aims to holistically innovate battery materials in novel materials spaces. Machine learning and computational evaluation of material candidates will enable guided high throughput experimental synthesis.

Techno-economic analysis for valuing battery second life

Old batteries of different sizes

PI: Stefan Reichelstein, Graduate School of Business; Co-PIs: Stephen Comello, Graduate School of Business, and William Gent, Materials Science & Engineering

The team will develop a valuation model and warranty pricing approach for used EV batteries deployed in second-life stationary storage applications. The valuation will be based on lifecycle cost, pack performance degradation profile and degradation profile prediction error. They will provide a techno-economic assessment of alternative repurposing strategies, thus identifying the potential for EV pack reuse and target reapplication.

Polymer batteries: Toward the recycling of batteries

PI:  Alberto Salleo; Co-PI: Alexander Giovannitti, both Materials Science & Engineering Department

The efficient recovery of redox-active components from end-of-life energy storage devices is challenging due to the utilization of hazardous electrolytes and the requirement of mixed-phase electrode design. The researchers will develop recyclable electrodes based on solution-process redox-active polymers. The electrode materials are designed to function in safe electrolytes to establish an easy, safe and cost-efficient recycling process.

Designing a circular lithium economy: Materials and processes for recovery from batteries

PI:  William Tarpeh, Chemical Engineering

While lithium demand for batteries is rapidly increasing, surplus lithium discharges from battery production, storage, and disposal can pollute the environment. Because less than 1% of lithium is currently recycled from batteries, we reimagine lithium as a resource by designing novel membrane materials and electrochemical devices that selectively recover lithium from batteries.

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