NFCRC In the News

Zenyuk Awarded NSF Grant for Decarbonization Technologies Research

By Tonya Becerra
May 13, 2021, UCI Samueli School of Engineering News & Events

Iryna Zenyuk's NSF grant supports student travel to Germany
to research decarbonization of energy sectors and
enabling a carbon-free economy.

Samueli School of Engineering researcher Iryna Zenyuk has been awarded an International Research Experience for Students grant from the National Science Foundation to focus on decarbonization technologies.

The grant provides $300,000 for three years and will support a diverse group of 18 UCI students — six per year — to travel to Berlin, Germany. Each year, four graduate students and two undergraduate students will be selected through a competitive application process open to the UCI student community and administered through the Advanced Power and Energy Program, an interdisciplinary program that focuses on development and deployment of net-zero emission technologies.

For 10 weeks each summer, the participants will conduct research related to decarbonization of energy sectors and enabling a carbon-free economy. Students will work with the Technical University of Berlin and Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society conducting mentored research in a multidisciplinary environment. Student research projects will fall into three general areas: hydrogen technologies, carbon dioxide reduction technologies and low-temperature ammonia production. These projects will leverage resources and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities at TU Berlin and FHI. Conducting these research activities in Germany will provide scientists with a broad, global context for clean energy technologies, as Germany has set ambitious goals for renewable energy. The program intends to develop globally engaged students, who consider chemical transformations, engineering and economics within the context of zero-emission technologies and environmental impact.

"With the U.S. focus on a 2050 net-zero emissions economy, it is our responsibility as educators to develop the next-generation workforce in renewable technologies," said Zenyuk, principal investigator, associate director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center and associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering with joint appointments in mechanical and aerospace engineering and materials science and engineering.

"Germany's decarbonization targets are also ambitious, most recently announcing 65 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Our students will have the opportunity to conduct research on zero-emission technologies and environmental impact as a cohort in some of the best facilities at Technical University of Berlin and Fritz Haber Institute of Max Planck Society. I am excited to work with our German collaborators to help our students to be more globally engaged, and I am grateful to NSF for providing funding."

Other collaborators on the project are co-principal investigators Plamen Atanassov, Chancellor's Professor of chemical and biomedical engineering; Jack Brouwer, APEP director, National Fuel Cell Research Center director and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Vojislav Stamenkovic, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Horiba Institute for Mobility and Connectivity2.