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Winterstein Lands Fulbright Scholarship

Jonathan Winterstein, a doctoral student in Materials Science & Engineering, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to carry out research at the Austrian Centre for Electron Microscopy and Nanoanalysis — an institute renowned for its high-quality electron spectroscopy and microscopy. The Centre is associated with the Technical University of Graz (TU Graz). Jonathan, who earned his B.S. at Washington State University — Pullman, is advised by Dr. C. Barry Carter, Department Head of Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering.

The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. government and seeks to enhance cultural awareness and cooperation between U.S. scientists and professionals and peers around the globe.

Jonathan’s Fulbright research will focus on ceramic fuel cell materials. He explained that ceramics play an important role in making next-generation clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, affordable and reliable. “Currently, cost is restrictive and the spread of solar and wind resources is not uniform; that is, not every part of the world receives equal wind or sunlight. Solutions to these barriers may come in the form of new technologies based on ceramic materials. For example, some ceramic materials can be used to convert solar heat into hydrogen that can later be used to power fuel cells. Hydrogen technology is a potential means to reduce cost and distribution difficulties of solar and wind power.”

He continued “Many technologies to convert plant material to biofuels also depend on ceramics. Ceramic fuel cells, which convert fuel to electricity without burning the fuel, using clean hydrogen or biofuels are among the most promising technologies for clean energy generation.”

His research at UConn has focused on the chemical and structural characterization of oxide ceramics and, in particular, cerium oxide, which is a promising material for energy technologies. A principal tool of his work is transmission electron microscopy, or TEM, which permits researchers to understand materials at the nanometer scale.

Jonathan seeks to control defects in the ceramic materials in order to optimize the performance of fuel cell materials. He explained that he hopes to answer many of the unresolved questions about cerium oxide materials, including the nature and management of defects and their influence on fuel cell performance. He also hopes to gain a better understanding of ceramic properties and structure with the objective of applying them in catalysis.

Visualizing things on such a minute level requires the use of TEM, which he deems “critical to determining how the processing of materials influences the final performance of a product. During processing, nanometer-scale structures and defects are introduced into materials that must be controlled to produce a useful product. TEM can provide images and data about these defects that are unobtainable by other techniques. Combining TEM with spectroscopy is particularly powerful for studying defects in materials.”

Jonathan’s nine-month Fulbright award will provide him access to the Centre’s unique resources. “Few institutions in the world offer the state-of-the-art equipment available at TU Graz and no other institute has the same level of expertise in this field as that possessed by researchers at TU Graz.”

Jonathan previously received a prestigious National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, which has supported much of his doctoral research.