Wayne State professor receives prestigious NSF Early Career award; research to impact public awareness regarding energy and our environment
DETROIT — A Wayne State University professor has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the agency's most prestigious award for up-and-coming researchers in science and engineering.
The five-year, nearly $406,000 grant was awarded to Eranda Nikolla, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical engineering in the College of Engineering, for the project “Tailoring the nature of the active site of Ni electrocatalysts for electrochemical co-reduction of CO2 and H2O”.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. These activities alter the carbon cycle by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and influencing nature’s ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Extensive use of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil creates consequential high levels of CO2 emissions and are a major environmental issue.
According to Nikolla, solutions to these challenges will require the development of ways to activate reverse chemical pathways in which CO2 is converted back into high energy molecules using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy.
Many of the proposed strategies for dealing with CO2 from chemical processes attempt the conversion of CO2 back to hydrocarbons but are currently inefficient. Through her research, Nikolla aims to improve energy efficiency and lessen environmental pollutants via the development of robust solid-state electrochemical systems.
“We propose to utilize a combination of experimental and theoretical techniques to design robust electrocatalysts for co-reduction of CO2 and H2O to syngas — a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and an important feedstock used for making chemicals and fuels,” said Nikolla. “Our research will have a broad impact in advancing the field by providing a new methodology for designing robust electrocatalysts for efficient generation of syngas from CO2, ultimately addressing nationally important issues in energy and climate change.”
“Dr. Nikolla is very deserving of this prestigious award from the National Science Foundation,” said Gloria Heppner, associate vice president for research at Wayne State. “Her important research will not only transform our knowledge about electrochemical systems and ways to improve their performance, but also will provide important outreach programs that will advance teaching, training and public awareness regarding energy and our environment.”
Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.