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Electrical engineer wins Navy’s Young Investigator award for battery life research

News Release — 2 June 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contact: Herb Booth, (817) 272-7075, hbooth@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - David Wetz, a UT Arlington electrical engineering assistant professor, has received a 2011 Young Investigator Research Award from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Wetz, who joined The University of Texas at Arlington in August 2010, will study how new energy storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, behave when current is extracted from them very quickly and at higher than normal levels.

The research is critical to the Navy as ships often require quick, pulsed-driven electrical power, “and they need that power as quickly as it can be delivered safely,” Wetz said.

The honor comes with research funding – about $170,000 per year for three years. Wetz’s project was one of 21 selected from more than 270 proposals.

Jonathan Bredow, professor and chairman of UT Arlington’s electrical engineering department, said Wetz has demonstrated that he is among the top in his rank for conducting creative research.

“This is a major milestone for David,” Bredow said. “His work will also have significant impact for the Office of Naval Research and larger professional community, which is critical to a top tier institution. Obtaining this extremely competitive award demonstrates that UT Arlington is successfully recruiting among the most promising young researchers out there.”  

Wetz’s project is titled “Investigation of Aging Phenomena in Electrochemical Storage Devices when Cycled at Elevated Rates.” The batteries of interest in the study, Wetz said, are similar to those used in today’s cell phone or laptop computer. They differ in that they are specially designed to deliver their energy quicker rather than over a long period of time, such as the duration needed to power cell phones or laptop computers.

Wetz said the technology is still its early stages and that researchers need to be better understand how the batteries will perform when they are charged and recharged repeatedly.

Such cycles typically reduce a battery’s ability to store energy and reduce the length of time the battery can power a device. Consumers experience this as laptops or cell phone batteries lose their ability to power the units.

“We know how the batteries age when they are used in the traditional manner,” Wetz said. “Now we just need to tell the Navy if these ageing mechanisms are the same or different when they are used in this new mode of operation.”

The Navy awarded $10.8 million to scientists and engineers at 18 academic institutions as part of the Office of Naval Research 2011 Young Investigator Program.

In announcing the award, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called the program an important part of his department’s outreach in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“To our benefit, it attracts outstanding new faculty researchers to naval-relevant research,” Mabus said in a statement. “The program also plays a major role in the Navy's outreach efforts by supporting diverse faculty at a critical point in their careers.”

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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