Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am pleased to share the fall 2015 issue of The Joule. This issue marks the completion of my first year as the new director of ND Energy, the start of a new academic year, and the acceptance of Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. As you read through each of the articles below, I hope you will gain a better understanding of Notre Dame’s commitment to advancing energy-related research, education and outreach with an unwavering intent to preserve our most precious resource and one of God’s greatest gifts to us – earth. I will leave you with a quote that was written years before by Fr. Ted, which at the time, I am sure had considerable meaning, and yet today, is one that continues to drive our very actions. 

     “ The greatest imperative of our time is to create a spiritual unity of human understanding and justice that matches the physical unity and beauty of the earth, so that we will use and not abuse this precious gift, so that the earth will continue to nourish and sustain us and those who follow us for all time.”
                                                        - Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.
Best wishes as we embark on this collaborative journey towards sustainability.

Kind regards,
Peter C. Burns    
Director, Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy)


We are delighted to welcome the following Notre Dame faculty to ND Energy: 

Melissa Berke, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, research focus – energy conversion and efficiency.

Andrian Rocha, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, research focus – energy conversion and efficiency.

Jennifer Schaefer, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, research focus – smart distribution and storage.

Na Wei, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, research foci – energy conversion and efficiency and sustainable bio/fossil fuels.       

Although we have had to say “good-bye” to other faculty in the recent months, we are grateful for their many contributions to advancing energy-related research and education at Notre Dame. The following faculty either have left the University, retired, or are no longer conducting energy-related research:  Bruce Bunker, Physics; Mark Caprio, Physics; Hyungrok Do, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Stefan Frauendorf, Physics; Thomas Frecka, Accountancy-Business; Susan Fullerton, Electrical Engineering; Jessica Hellmann, Biological Sciences; MikeHildreth, Physics; Libai Huang, Radiation Laboratory; Frank Incropera, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Debdeep Jena, Electrical Engineering; Richard Jensen, Economics; Patricia Maurice, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences; Dan Meisel, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Chong Na, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences; Robert Nelson, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Fabio Semperlotti, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Slavi Sevov, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Grace Xing, Electrical Engineering; and Elaine Zhu, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.


ND Energy Faculty Awards and Recognitions 
Kudos to ND Energy faculty on receiving the following nationally acclaimed awards and recognitions: 
Internal Advisory Board
ND Energy partners with other departments and organizations across campus that have similar interests in education and outreach and scientific advancements in research and other scholarly activities that focus on energy production and use and the societal and economic impact this has on our global communities. These groups make up the ND Energy Internal Advisory Board (IAB). The IAB gathers twice yearly to discuss current initiatives and share best practices. During the November meeting, IAB member, Paul Kempf, Senior Director of Utilities, will present Notre Dame’s plans for changing the way in which energy is produced on campus. These changes reflect the recent “call to action” in the Encyclical, Laudato Si, by Pope Francis, and the subsequent announcement made by Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, that the University will be coal-free in the next five years and its carbon footprint will be reduced by 50% by 2030.

Record High for Notre Dame Research Funding for Fiscal Year 2015
The University of Notre Dame has hit an all-time high in research funding, receiving $133.7 million for fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015). ND Energy affiliated research makes up roughly 5% of this or $6.4 million.    

ND Energy Research Proposals and Awards:  April - September 2015 
ND Energy tracks the University’s energy-related research proposals and awards. Starting last year, ND Energy began to report this activity on a calendar-year basis with the 2014 Annual Report. The following data highlights this activity for calendar year 2015 through September 30.
41 total energy-related proposals, $20M
83% affiliated with ND Energy, $16.7M*
27 total energy-related awards, $7.8M
87% affiliated with ND Energy, $6.8M*
17 new energy-related awards, $3.9M
90% affiliated with ND Energy, $3.5M*
*Energy-related proposals and awards that are not 100% affiliated with ND Energy are also affiliated with other centers and institutes.

Research Projects
Advancing energy-related research at Notre Dame is a key component of ND Energy. Below are some research projects recently awarded to our faculty with funding levels of $500K or more.
  • Prefabricated High-Strength Rebar Systems with High-Performance Concrete for Accelerated Construction of Nuclear Concrete Structures, funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and led by Yahya (Gino) Kurama and Ashley Thrall, $800K over 3 years.
  • Probing Local, Hybrid Perovskite Photophysics Through Spatially- and Temporally-resolved Absorption/emission Microscopy, funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and led by Masaru (Ken) Kuno and Prashant Kamat, $500K for 1 year.
  • Nonclassical Oxidation Reactions, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by Seth Brown, $500K over 4 years.
  • Transient Absorption Microscopy Studies of the Dynamics of Single Metal and Semiconductor Nanostructures, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by Gregory Hartland, $600K over 4 years.
  • Hybrid Encapsulated Ionic Liquids for Post-combustion CO2-Capture, funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and led by Joan Brennecke, Mark McCready, and Mark Stadtherr, $2M over 3 years. 
The NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET): Engineering a More Sustainable Energy Future ended with the summer 2015 cohort. Hosted by ND Energy since 2012, this summer program allowed local high school teachers and teachers from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program the opportunity to conduct energy-related research and develop new classroom curriculum for their students, based on their research experiences. Research topics included safer nuclear waste disposal, fabrication of perovskite solar cells, biofuels, uranium materials, carbon capture and gas separations, wind technologies, selective chemical oxidations, improved grid technologies, and global change ecology. Over the four-year period, fifty-nine teachers participated in the Energy-RET program and of those, twelve were ACE affiliates.

ND Energy Postdoctoral Fellowships 
ND Energy offers competitive research fellowships to postdoctoral research associates at the University of Notre Dame for the purpose of spurring new energy-related research and supporting postdoctoral professional development. Since the program began in fall 2014, ND Energy has awarded ten research fellowships, five in engineering and five in science, resulting in a financial commitment of about $330,000 in energy-related research and postdoctoral professional development. Current fellows are Peng Cui, Peng Gao, Yanlin Guo, Tao Jiang, Guoliang Li, Shuangjiang Luo, Deisy Pena Romero, Ashish Sharma, Matthew Smylie, and Chad Stephenson. Meet our Postdoctoral Fellows.  
For more information about research fellowships in energy for students and postdocs, contact Barbara Villarosa or visit

Materials Characterization Facility (MCF)
New Equipment: 
The Materials Characterization Facility (MCF) has welcomed a Bruker D8 DISCOVER High Resolution X-Ray Diffractometer into its suite of instruments. This addition represents a significant augmentation of MCF characterization capabilities. The DISCOVER High Res XRD can be employed in High-Resolution X-ray Diffraction (HRXRD), X-ray Reflectometry (XRR), Reciprocal Space Mapping, (RSM), and Grazing Incidence Diffraction (GID). These measurements provide researchers with the tools to investigate thin films and powders with regard to their composition, thickness, lattice parameters, strain and relaxation, roughness, density, and crystallite size. 

Core Facilities Fair:
The Core Facilities Fair, which was held in September, represents a great opportunity for the Notre Dame research community to come to a single location and discover what services and capabilities are available on campus through the core facilities, including the MCF as represented by Dr. Ian Lightcap. According to Ian, this event also allows facility directors and staff the opportunity to share information and learn about each other's facilities, which is so important to the development of a collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment. The Core Facilities Fair is sponsored annually by ND Research. 

Starting this fall, Dr. Lightcap will be offering mini-workshops on the instruments within the MCF, focusing on specific topics to enhance the research capabilities at Notre Dame. Topics planned for the MCF workshop series are listed below. The first workshop will be held the week of November 30.
  • High Resolution X-ray Diffraction: Grazing Incidence Diffraction, X-ray Reflectivity, and Reciprocal Space Mapping
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy: XPS from A to Peaks
  • Thermal Analysis: DSC, TGA, and TGA/Mass Spec Practical Applications
  • Electrochemistry: Fundamentals, Rotating Disc Electrode, and Electrochemical Impedance
  • Raman Spectroscopy: Practical Tips for Sample Prep and Maximizing Signal to Noise 
For more information about the MCF, its instruments and training, contact Dr. Ian Lightcap, ND Energy Senior Scientist and Facility Manager, or visit
Education and Outreach

Energy Studies Minor
The Energy Studies Minor, currently serving more than fifty students, has made two changes in order to better meet the needs of the students. Rather than label classes as technical or non-technical, the nine elective credits may now be chosen from a pre-approved list that draws from a wide variety of energy-related courses across the University. This change has been made in order to allow participants to craft a program that best meets their future goals. Read More.

For more information about the Energy Studies minor, contact Anne Berges Pillai or visit

Energy Week 2015
Thanks to the timely release of Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato Si’, ND Energy’s ninth annual Energy Week, October 4-8, was loaded with and surrounded by a plethora of events across campus highlighting the urgency of sustainability. The Student Energy Board planned and implemented a series of forums and activities, in partnership with other departments and organizations across campus, including the Center for Social Concerns and GreenND. Read More.

Alumni Weekend
In early June, ND Energy participated with other centers and institutes across campus in the first-ever Roam the Dome event during the annual Notre Dame Alumni Weekend.  Alumni toured the third floor of the Main Building and met with representatives from each of the centers and institutes to learn more about their research and educational programs. This event was sponsored by ND Research. During the same time, ND Energy participated in the College of Engineering’s laboratory tours in Stinson-Remick Hall for Engineering alumni who were interested in learning more about Notre Dame’s research initiatives in actinides, transformative solar, and materials characterization.


High School Student Program:  Engaging the Next Generation 
Nine students from Mishawaka High School (MHS) are participating in internships in five ND Energy affiliated labs across campus. In its fourth year, this partnership engages young scientists with graduate students to experience scientific methods first-hand. In December, the students will present energy topics to a group of students at MHS, hoping to help their peers become more aware of energy conversations going on around them.


Notre Dame Responds to the Encyclical Letter

The University has shown great support for the Encyclical LetterLaudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis and the “call to action” by offering an array of education programs, tailored for every student, faculty, and staff, focusing on the major aspects and key messages of this important document.  The University also has committed to a coal-free environment in the next five years and a reduction in its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 (Learn More). Visit the Sustainability Calendar for programming details.

Distinguished Lectures

In support of research and educational initiatives in energy, the following experts from academia, industry, and government visited campus and shared their experiences with students and faculty.
  • March 31, 2015, Zdenek P. Bazant, McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, Northwestern University, “Why Fracking Works and Why Not Well Enough.” Sponsored by the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
  • March 31, 2015, Narayan Pradhan, Associate Professor, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata, India, “Role of Impurities in Controlling the Properties of Semiconductor Nanostructures.” Sponsored by the Radiation Laboratory.
  • April 1, 2015, Gary Ziatas, Technion University, “PbSe/CdSe Thin-Shell Colloidal Quantum Dots for Optoelectronics.” Sponsored by the Radiation Laboratory.
  • April 10, 2015, K. George Thomas, Indian Institute for Scientific Education and Research, Trivandrum, India, “Light-Matter Interaction in Chromophore Bound Metal and Semiconductor Nanoparticles: From Strong Coupling to Electron Transfer.” Sponsored by the Radiation Laboratory.
  • April 21, 2015, Diego Gomez-Gauldron, Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University, “Computational Design and Development of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for Energy and Environment Applications.” Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • August 25, 2015, Ekaterina (Katya) Pas, Senior Lecturer, School of Chemistry, Monash University, “Protic Ionic Liquids: Effect of Environment on the Extent of Proton Transfer and CO2 Capture.” Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • September 22, 2015, Rachel Getman, Assistant Professor, Clemson University, “Computational Design of Highly Selective Transition Metal Catalysts Encapsulated by Metal-Organic Frameworks for Butane Oxidation to 1-Butanol.” Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • September 25, 2015, Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.” Sponsored by the Office of Sustainability.
  • September 29, 2015, Sanat Kumar, Department Chair, Columbia University, “Nanocomposites with Grafted Nanoparticles.” Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • October 6, 2015, Gwyneth Cravens, Author, "Can We Save the World With Nuclear Energy".  Notre Dame Panelists:  Dr. Michael Desch, Dr. Peter Burns, Dr. Don Howard, and Dr. Prashant Kamat. Funded by the IBM Women’s Lecture Series, this event was jointly sponsored by ND Energy; John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values; and College of Engineering. Read More
  • October 8, 2015, Energy Policy Forum: "Policy for a New Energy Future - Can Public and Private Sectors Unite to Fuel the Clean Economy?"  Expert Panelists:  Robert N. Schleckser (ND’78), Vice President and Treasurer, ExxonMobil Corporation, Robert Mueller (ND’04), Chief of Staff, City of South Bend, Bruce Huber, Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame. Sponsored by ND Energy. Read More
  • October 29, 2015, Mark W. Lloyd, Director of Projects, American Electric Power Nuclear Generation, “Making U.S. Nuclear Plants Safer by Incorporating Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.” Sponsored by Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
View previous newsletters:
Spring 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014

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