One of the byproducts of automobile exhaust and industrial power plants is waste heat energy, which is currently released unproductively into the environment. A $535,694 Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation will allow West Virginia University’s Xueyan Song to investigate ways to improve the sustainability of our energy infrastructure through waste heat recovery.

The CAREER Program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Song has been researching the development of materials for energy applications, which are essential to advances in the clean and sustainable energy systems. With this award, she plans to explore ways to improve the energy conversion efficiency of thermoelectric oxide, which possess the ability to directly transform temperature differentials into electrical power. The award is funded by the Ceramics Program in the Division of Materials Research at NSF.

“Oxide materials, such as the newly developed non-toxic calcium cobaltite, are particularly promising for applications in thermoelectric power generators because of their stability in air at high temperatures,” said Song. “The current challenge for developing thermoelectric oxides is to improve the energy conversion efficiency, which is currently lower than that of the conventional thermoelectric materials.”

Song, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is bringing a novel approach to her research by involving not only college students but high school teachers as well.

“To introduce the concept of thermoelectric materials, energy efficiency and energy sustainability to the broader society, I’ve chosen to involve high school teachers in the project,” said Song. “They are collecting their lab experiences in a journal, and designing and developing teaching materials about advanced materials for energy application for their classrooms.” The award will also help Song closely integrate her research into the undergraduate- and graduate-level courses she teaches.

Song earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from Yanshan University, China. She went on to complete her doctorate in the discipline at Zhejiang University, China. Before joining the faculty at WVU, Song worked as research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed journal publications, including ones that have appeared in Nature and Nature Materials.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon