Ohio University’s Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research (CEER) has been granted $379,000 by the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The award will be used to establish  a consortium to support, sustain, and enhance U.S. manufacturing capacity in the nation’s chemical industry and allied sectors through innovative electrochemical processes. Under the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program, the award will specifically support a roadmapping activity that could lead to funding for implementation of identified solutions.
“With this award, NIST has recognized electrochemical engineering research as a primary path to foster U.S. manufacturing growth,” said CEER Director and Russ Professor Gerri Botte. Botte, who is known internationally for developing the “pee-to-power” process in which hydrogen can be created from human and animal wastewater for use in fuel cells, is also director of the Center for Electrochemical Processes and Technology (CEProTECH), a National Science Foundation (NSF) industry university cooperative research center.
According to Botte, electrochemical engineering provides transformative solutions that can benefit the entire U.S. chemical industry, from major producers to lower-tier suppliers. For example, environmentally friendly electrochemical methods can be used to convert alternative feedstock into useful chemicals and materials such as alcohols, hydrogen, polymers, and graphene, she said. Botte notes that the nation’s $1.5 trillion chemical industry employs 800,000 workers and indirectly supports 5.5 million additional jobs. The industry also confronts technology challenges, including uncertain energy supplies, energy-intensive manufacturing processes and the need to reduce waste and conserve water.
The team – named the Electrochemical Pathway for Sustainable Manufacturing Consortium (EPSuM) – will consist of industry and science leaders from the electrochemical engineering field as well as industry, academic, and association leaders. They will develop a roadmap that engages the chemical industry and its supply chain in identifying critical manufacturing needs, assessing technology options to meet these needs, setting technology research priorities, and devising a sustainable plan for developing and implementing new or improved process technologies.
As part of the process, chemical industry experts will provide input to identify critical needs and select technology alternatives. The group will then generate and implement a sustainable plan to develop and deploy them for the NIST’s next phase of funding: implementation.
EPSuM will capitalize on the infrastructure of CEER and CEProTECH, with PolymerOhio, a NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership and experienced leader in conducting roadmapping and strategic planning, leading the roadmapping process. The Electrochemical Society, an international educational association concerned with a broad range of phenomena relating to electrochemical and solid-state science and technology, will expand the participation of electrochemical science and technology experts in the process with its network of more than 9,000 industry and academic scientists in the field of electrochemical science and engineering.
“As the work of the Center for Electrochemical Engineering Center, and that of Director Botte, are increasingly recognized, it is clear that their vision of the role of electrochemical engineering in responsible and sustainable solutions to environmental, energy, and materials processing technology problems is one of the most promising avenues for the Russ College’s investment in energy and environmental strategies,” says Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin.