College of LAS « Illinois

Professor receives fellowship for research in green technology

Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez receives the Electrochemical Society Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship

Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez has been awarded a prominent fellowship to research in fuel cell technology.
Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez has been awarded a prominent fellowship to research in fuel cell technology.
A chemistry professor at Illinois has been selected to receive the Electrochemical Society Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship to advance his work in advancing green energy technology.

Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez was one of three recipients selected for the prominent fellowship, which will provide him a minimum of $50,000 for his research on optimizing the performance of fuel cell electrocatalysts. He was chosen from an applicant pool of more than 100 young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Rodriguez-Lopez said the fellowship will assist his laboratory group to better harness and understand the potential of the oxygen reduction reaction, a process vital to energy converting systems such as fuel cells. To date, no electrocatalyst material used in fuel cells comes close to performing the ORR close to its theoretical potential, he said. The work is complex, with advances in one area leading to losses in another.

He hopes this work will help break through the problem. “We propose to use an electronically controlled platform that would enable us to find the optimal configuration of the electrocatalyst to improve the ORR,” he said.

The award will help Rodriguez-Lopez’s group contribute to more efficient and cleaner energy technology.

“Beyond the practical outcome of this activity, there is also the opportunity to generate new fundamental knowledge about reaction dynamics at electrodes,” he said. “We hope to seize the opportunity to learn about these fundamentals, in the hope that what we learn has an impact on a larger scale.”

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and Toyota Research Institute of North America, a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., is in its second year.

The program aims to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.

"Scientists and engineers seek to unveil what is possible and to exploit that knowledge to provide solutions to the myriad of problems facing our world," says ECS Executive Director Roque Calvo. "We are proud to have the continued support of Toyota in this never ending endeavor to uncover new frontiers and face new challenges."

The selected fellows will receive restricted grants of a minimum of $50,000 to conduct the research outlined in their proposals within one year. Other winners from this year are Elizabeth Biddinger, a professor at City College of New York, and Joshua Snyder, a professor at Drexel University.

"With this year's winners, we were able to further expand on the number of interesting and innovative technologies covered by this Fellowship," said Paul Fanson, fellowship chair and manager of Toyota's North American Research Strategy Office. "While the new projects this year focus on traditional applications such as Li-ion batteries and fuel cells, each project proposes unique solutions to known challenges which may also be instructive in other areas.”

Dave Evensen

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