IRES: U.S. - Australia International Research Experience for Students: Materials for Energy Storage and Transduction

Project: Research project

Project Details


Non-technical explanation

This IRES integrates several academic and research programs at three research-intensive institutions including North Carolina State University (NCSU), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia. Under the direction of a UNSW foreign mentor, each of six student participants will complete a 10-week individual research project that contributes to the overall research theme. The newly established Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics, a collaboration between NCSU, PSU and corporate members, will also be leveraged in order to provide thematic research projects and training experiences that are of broad interest, additional presentation opportunities for students, and complementary undergraduate research opportunities in the U.S.

A global sustainable energy future requires the advancement and implementation of new materials for energy storage and conversion and the concomitant development of scientists and engineers who exercise an ability to see bigger problems and create global solutions. The unifying research theme of Materials for Energy Storage and Transduction will promote the development of sustainable energy technologies and human capital in this area of global need.

The IRES project develops human capital in the sustainable energy sector and advances the understanding of phenomena and materials that underpin sustainable energy technologies. Through their projects and activities, U.S. students are trained to be global scientists and engineers who leverage global resources and seek diverse perspectives and expertise. The activities also establish an international network of cooperating scientists and engineers from three different research-intensive institutions on topics of high societal relevance. The marketing and recruitment activities of the project will enable and encourage applications from the most competitive and diverse student applicants. Through these activities, the project will continue a strong track record by the investigators of engaging women and persons from underrepresented groups in undergraduate and graduate research projects. The results of the work will be broadly disseminated at national and international conferences and undergraduate research symposia and published in core, disciplinary journals.

Technical description

Student research projects will be focused on material polarization phenomena that enable the storage of electrical charge and its conversion between mechanical, thermal, and other forms of energy. The dielectric and piezoelectric materials that rely on polarization phenomena are critical to a variety of energy systems ranging from the small (microelectromechanical, microelectronic, and wireless communication systems) to the large (electric cars and smart grids). To accomplish their projects, students will be trained in and utilize state-of-the-art instrumentation and modeling approaches at UNSW including, for example, scanning probe microscopy, cathodoluminescence spectroscopy, X-ray diffuse scattering, confocal laser scanning probe microscopy, and density functional theory modeling. In addition to their foreign mentors, the students will interact with faculty and academics at NCSU and PSU who have a vested interest in advancing knowledge and training students in these research areas.

Effective start/end date10/1/149/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $249,203.00


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