Spring 2014


cSEND is pleased to share the following information with you, highlighting recent activities in energy-related research, education and outreach at the University of Notre Dame. 
First and foremost are the highlights associated with our People. These individuals are critical players in the advancement of the cSEND mission and are key to the success of our research initiatives and education and outreach programs. 

Faculty Spotlight
Dr. Ruilan Guo
Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Dr. Ruilan Guo joined Notre Dame’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in January 2012. She is a 2013 recipient of a Department of Energy (DOE) Early Career Research Program award. The five-year DOE CAREER grant of $750,000 supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science. Ruilan’s research combines chemistry and engineering principles for the molecular design and synthesis of functional polymer and polymer-based membrane materials for sustainable energy and environmental applications. Supported by her DOE CAREER grant, Ruilan is particularly excited about her group's current research on incorporating bulky and shape-persistent iptycene units into a polymer backbone structure. This hierarchically controlled macromolecular architecture enables both fast and selective small molecule or ion transport. These newly designed polymer materials are expected to provide a completely new membrane platform that has great potential not only for gas separations and fuel cell membranes as proposed in her DOE project, but also for many other energy-related applications such as polymer-ion batteries, and electrodialysis. The Guo lab’s interdisciplinary research is dedicated to exploring a fundamental understanding of the structure-property relationship over multiple length scales to provide useful functional polymer materials that enable a sustainable energy future. Read more

New Faculty Join cSEND

cSEND is delighted to welcome two new faculty. Dr. Amy Hixon, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, and Dr. Hyungrok Do, Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Hixon and her research group are studying how processes at the mineral-water interface control actinide behavior. Dr. Do and his research group are interested in interdisciplinary approaches tackling various engineering problems with a primary focus on plasma assisted combustion, supersonic combustion, fuel reforming, and plasma aided flow control.
Orr Nominated for DOE’s Under Secretary for Science
Dr. Franklin M. Orr, member of cSEND’s Technical Advisory Board, has been nominated by President Obama for Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy. Dr. Orr is the Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor in Petroleum Engineering, Energy Resources Engineering Department Director, and Precourt Institute for Energy Director at Stanford University. Read more

cSEND Personnel Update
There have been some recent changes within cSEND personnel, and among these changes are the vacancies in the managing director and (part-time) education and outreach program director positions and the retirement of Dr. Ken Henderson as associate director. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Greg Hartland and Dr. Bill Schneider as our new associate directors, representing key areas of the University, as well as Elizabeth Westfall as our education and outreach coordinator, primarily responsible for developing energy-centered educational opportunities and programs for our students and the surrounding communities and for administering the Energy Studies Minor and energy-related Research Experiences for Teachers program. 

A list of cSEND personnel is provided below along with a link to contact information.
     cSEND Administration
     Joan F. Brennecke, cSEND Director
     Gregory Hartland, cSEND Associate Director (Chemistry and Biochemistry)
     William Schneider, cSEND Associate Director (Chemical Engineering)
     Ian Lightcap, Senior Scientist and Facilities Manager
     Jennifer Pavlick, Office Assistant
     Barbara Villarosa, Administrative Services Program Manager
     Elizabeth Westfall, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Research Highlights

Proposals and Awards

During calendar year 2013, cSEND experienced a 29% increase in proposals and a 38% increase in awards over the previous year. cSEND faculty submitted 64 proposals to external funding agencies, totaling more than $54M, and received over $10M in funding to conduct energy-related research at Notre Dame. This represents a total of 61 awards of which 16 of them were new. Congratulations to five of our junior faculty who received new awards from the American Chemical Society and the Department of Energy. 


Two major research projects funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) were completed this year. And while these projects were wrapping up, another one was just beginning. These projects, led respectively by principal investigators Dr. Joan Brennecke, Dr. William Schneider, and Dr. Grace Xing, are highlighted below.
CO2 Capture with Ionic Liquids Involving Phase Change ($2.5M). Led by Dr. Joan Brennecke, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Notre Dame’s team of researchers in collaboration with MATRIC (Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research, & Innovation Center) worked to develop a new CO2 capture process that uses special ionic liquids (ILs) to remove CO2 from the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants to enable the reduction of significant greenhouse gas emissions. Read more

Compact, Efficient Air Conditioning with Ionic Liquid-based Refrigerants ($2.8M). Led by Dr. William Schneider, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Notre Dame’s team of researchers in collaboration with Creative Thermal Solutions (CRT), Inc. worked to develop an air-conditional system with a new ionic liquid and CO2 as the working fluid to decrease the use of conventional, polluting refrigerants and increase the energy efficiency of air conditioners. Read more

PolarJETT Novel Vertical GaN Power Transistor ($2.5M). Led by Dr. Grace Xing, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Notre Dame’s team of researchers will work to develop an innovative high-efficiency gallium nitride (GaN) power switch, significantly smaller and operated at much higher performance levels than conventional power switches, making it ideal for use in a variety of power electronics applications. This project also will reuse expensive GaN materials and utilize conventional low-cost production methods to keep costs down. If successful, the miniature, high-performance, low-cost GaN power transistors could make silicon switches obsolete. Read more


Joseph Manser, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, is shown on the cover of the February 24, 2014 issue of Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) Magazine. The feature story on Perovskite Solar Cells covers the recent research progress across different labs. For more information on Perovskite Solar Cells, please view the YouTube narrative video, which was filmed mostly in the Prashant Kamat Lab at Notre Dame.

Awards and Recognitions

Congratulations to Joan Brennecke who received the 2014 E.V. Murphree Award from the American Chemical Society for her outstanding research in industrial and engineering chemistry, and the development of chemical engineering principles and their application to industrial processes. 

Congratulations to cSEND faculty members who were among the inaugural recipients of the highly competitive grants awarded through the Global Collaboration Initiative (GCI), sponsored by Notre Dame International (NDI). Up to nine (9) grants of $10,000 to $20,000 will be awarded each year, with the possibility of renewal up to three years, to Notre Dame faculty engaged in research with colleagues at partner institutions around the world. cSEND faculty receiving 2013 awards were Tengfei Luo, Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Elaine Zhu, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Haifeng Gao, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Bill Phillip, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Read more



New Acquisitions Enhance cSEND’s Materials Characterization Facilities (MCF)
Two new instruments will soon be augmenting the already versatile capabilities of the MCF.  A dual stage, Oerlikon Leybold thermal evaporation system and a custom-designed drop calorimeter for molten salt analysis are expected to be available for use by early this summer.
Open to both Notre Dame and external researchers, the MCF provides over 100 active users with a wide range of world-class characterization capabilities.  With facilities focusing on general, catalyst, and crystallography characterization, the MCF is uniquely positioned to handle the wide range of analytical needs from its diverse user base.
To see a list of the MCF instrumentation available for your research needs, please visit

Education and Outreach Highlights
Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)
cSEND is pleased to host the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) – Engineering a More Sustainable Energy Future for the third summer in 2014. Approximately 15 middle and high school teachers from the Michiana area, as well as those from around the U.S. who have been educated by Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) programs will participate. 

The teachers conduct energy-related research with a ND faculty mentor in state-of-the-art facilities while developing curriculum to use in their classrooms. They will be on campus this summer from June 16 through August 1. 

Some comments from last summer’s participants included:

‘Awesome program!!!  My lessons/labs for my students will be shared in April/May of this spring.  If all goes well, I hope to bring my students to Notre Dame to test our lab on Dye Sensitized Solar Cells.’
‘This was absolutely a success based on several criteria. First, students were interested and actively involved.  Questions came up such as “could I bring in eggplant and extract the anthocyanins in it for the dye?” and “what kind of data could we get if we wired two cells together” and “how many cells would it take to for me to charge my cell phone.” We were able to explore the answers to some of these questions in class.  Second, students were able to succeed in a research based environment.  This means that instead of reading and following directions to a step-by-step lab, students thought about what they were going to do before they did it.  If an experiment failed, students discussed what went wrong and tried something different.’

We are all looking forward to another successful program.


The following seminars and outreach events were recently hosted or co-sponsored by cSEND.

April 1, Reilly Center Forum: “Life Amongst the 'Tar Sands' Oil Pipelines,” a panel discussion.
February 15, Junior Parents Weekend 2014, Energy Open House and Lab Tours
February 1, Science Alive! 2014
January 27, 3rd Annual Undergraduate Energy Research Expo

December 6, "Biological Methane Oxidation” by Amy Rosenzweig, Northwestern University
October 29,The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040” by Thomas Degnan (ND ’73), Manager of Breakthrough and Leads Generation, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, and Member of the College of Engineering Advisory Council and cSEND Alumni Advisory Board
November 5,Solar Power and Commercialization,” by Patrick McCullough (ND ’95), Chief Executive Officer, Amonix (a leader in the design and manufacture of utility-scale solar power systems)
September 29 – October 4, Notre Dame Energy Week 
Copyright © 2014 Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame, All rights reserved.
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