New Illinois research institute to advance future clean energy
The University of Illinois has established a new research center on campus to develop the fundamental science required for a carbon-neutral energy economy. The center is part of the $100 million International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER, pronounced “Ice-ner”) located at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan.
During the next five years, the University of Illinois campus will receive a portion of I2CNER’s overall funding. I2CNER is one of six World Premier International (WPI) Research Centers funded by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology run by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; it is the only WPI Institute led by a non-Japanese researcher—MechSE Professor Petros Sofronis.T
"Our research is basic science but it is issue driven rather than curiosity driven," said Petros Sofronis, professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE), who directs both the Illinois research and the overall institute. "The Institute will advance the science necessary to both establish a non-fossil-based energy carrier system and contribute to the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions."
Illinois researchers involved in I2CNER include: Andrew Gewirth, chemistry, who will explore new materials to catalyze reactions inside hydrogen fuel cells and to improve overall fuel cell efficiency; CSL researcher Angus Rockett, materials science and engineering (MatSE), who will address organic and inorganic semiconductor materials and corresponding interfaces to find more efficient ways to produce hydrogen; MatSE Professor Ian Robertson and Sofronis, who will investigate the compatibility of hydrogen with structural materials to build the hydrogen distribution infrastructure, e.g. pipeline systems and dispensers at fuel cell stations; Robert Finley, director of the Illinois State Geological Survey, who is leading a CO2 sequestration project (Midwestern Geological Sequestration Consortium) to confirm that CO2 emissions can be stored permanently in deep saline sandstone rock formations; David Cahill, MatSE, who is investigating the thermophysical properties of CO2 and H2 under extreme conditions; and Ken Christensen, MechSE, an expert on turbulent flows and the effects of roughness on the flow of fluids around surfaces, who will study these fluid mechanics issues.
According to Sofronis, Illinois has been a world leader in hydrogen materials compatibility research for more than 30 years largely because of continuous support from the U. S. Department of Energy. Kyushu University is a leading institution on hydrogen research in Japan with some of the best-funded and best-equipped laboratories in the world.
“I2CNER will bring the world’s most talented researchers together from a range of disciplines—mechanics, chemistry, physics, materials science, geoscience, and oceanic science—to advance fundamental science that will remove the barriers to achieving a carbon-neutral-fueled society by enabling new technologies and designing new materials and processes,” said Sofronis.