Two Puerto Rican universities form an alliance with Cornell University for energy science

Gurapo – In the search for solutions to the challenges of climate change, especially energy, The University of Puerto Ricoo (UPR), la Anna J Mendez University (UAGM) and Cornell University form an alliance that provides research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students., as well as teachers, with an emphasis on underrepresented populations in science.

The Facial Electrochemistry Center for Biomaterials (CIE²M) is the product of a $3.8 million grant from National Science Foundation (NSF) under the program Alliances for Materials Research and Education (PREM, in English). It was established in 2018 and the scholarship provides funding until 2024, with the possibility of extension.

“We have a problem with climate changeEspecially with burning fossil fuels, so it is necessary to look for alternatives. At the center, research is being created on how to use hydrogen as a fuel, because there are cells that allow this. There are cars that already have these fuel cells, but it is in our interest to make them cheaper and easier to access,” he said new day Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Rio Piedras, UPR Jorge Columbus.

He added that this research focuses on improving catalysts so that chemical reactions in fuel cells are more efficient. They also study how to obtain hydrogen through processes that do not generate methane or carbon dioxide (CO2).greenhouse gases), as is the case today. One possibility is to extract hydrogen by separating components of water.

For his part, the professor of the Department of Chemistry and Physics said: “With the rise in gasoline prices, this research and the work of the center has become more relevant, on the way to moving from fossil fuels to renewable sources.” From the UAGM Campus in Gurabo Lisandro Conci.

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A fuel cell can be 90% efficient and this, after all, is one of the primary reasons for the research. Commercial batteries now use a highly acidic environment and require expensive precious metals. If we could work in alkaline environments, with materials that are more stable and less expensive because they are so readily available, that would be a major development and would affect the global energy landscape, added Hector Abruina, a professor in the Cornell University Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Research at CIE²M is divided into three groups: nanostructured catalysts (very small), nanostructured materials for dyestuff solar cells (do not use silicon) and new types of supercapacitors (which charge and discharge quickly, but with a battery capacity).

We are also entering into what is called “green chemistry” by using materials that are harmless to the environment. “We deliberately choose materials that are abundant on the planet and not polluted,” Colon said.

Student Development

Colon, Konsi, and Apronia state that student development and the dissemination of science are the other “important components” of CIE²M.

Students will have the opportunity to visit Cornell’s High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) facilities in Ithaca, New York, and sample materials they are looking for “to be measured and tested in a world-class facility,” Colon said. For undergraduate students, a summer program is also available, where they spend eight to 10 weeks at Cornell. In either case, the expenses are borne by CIE²M.

Between 2018 and 2021, 40 students (26 undergraduates and 14 graduates) were part of CIE²M, whose educational component also includes meetings and workshops. In the same period, 12 undergraduate students – mostly women – participated in the summer program.

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Regarding teacher training, nine of them were affected between 2019 and 2021. Last year, Colon said, it was not implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “but the expectation is that in the coming years, we will include more teachers in order to meet the goals of the proposal” . The program consists of providing them with information and materials to further research in their schools. Subsequently, CIE²M staff visit the campus and help develop the workshops.

“This proposal was created to impact all educational levels, from elementary, so they know and care about science, to post-doctoral, until they continue research. We are interested in increasing the number of Hispanics in the scientific energy community, with the idea that new technologies can see the light, commercialize and use the light Widely “.

It is a real commitment and cannot be faked. We are a core of educators with a commitment to putting in the effort and funding to make this possible. We’re doing a serious shortlist of students, with a focus on research, and they’re all doing very well. Having Puerto Ricans on Cornell helps too, and when the students return to the island, they arrive with a completely different mindset because they dared and succeeded. This generates a very brutal change of attitude which is also part of what we are looking for,” added Abruña.

Last week, the CIE²M External Advisory Board was on the island and visited UAGM’s Gurabo Campus. The visit took place within the first three years of the proposal, with the aim of determining what was being done well and what could be improved to secure funding from the NSF.

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