Renewable energy research project earns graduate fellowship award

No more than five graduate students worldwide are selected each year to receive support for their research through the prestigious Summer Fellowship program of The Electrochemical Society (ECS), an international educational organization.

One of this year’s recipients is Andrey Gunawan, who is pursuing his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at Arizona State University.

The fellowship award is providing $5,000 to aid Gunawan’s work to make advances in renewable and alternative energy technologies.

He is exploring how to convert thermal energy – such as geothermal, solar thermal, or waste heat from power plants, industrial processes and automobiles – into electricity, using a generator system based on the thermogalvanic (or thermoelectrochemical) effect.

This summer he’s focusing on studying the feasibility of incorporating systems into automobiles that capture the heat from the exhaust pipe and convert it into electricity to help power the vehicle.

Only one-third of the energy that fuel provides to cars is used to move the vehicles. The remaining energy is lost, and a substantial amount is in the form of hot exhaust gas, Gunawan explained.

If successful, such a system could potentially improve the fuel economy of cars with conventional internal combustion engines, he said.

He is testing how the system performs in the desert environment of the Phoenix area throughout the different seasons of the year.

Eventually he wants to test its performance in the varied climates of major metropolitan areas across the United States.

His report on the research project will be published in the winter issue of the ECS quarterly journal, Interface.

Gunawan is already helping to lead research in this area through an interdisciplinary project with ASU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry that is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The project essentially involves an area of research that will be the focus of the dissertation he is working on to complete the doctoral program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Professor Patrick Phelan is Gunawan’s academic and research advisor.

Gunawan, a native of Indonesia, began his studies at ASU after earning a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Bandung Institute of Technology  (Institut Teknologi Bandung) in Indonesia.

He credits Phelan with expanding his engineering horizons by convincing him to pursue doctoral studies in mechanical engineering and inspiring him to pursue research that combines expertise across various branches of science and engineering.

“It has been challenging to work on an interdisciplinary research project, but professor Phelan and my dissertation committee members have motivated and supported me. They have made me grow so much,” Gunawan said.

Phelan and assistant professor of engineering Candace Chan recommended Gunawan for the ECS fellowship. “Their encouragement of my academic work and research has been essential to me in earning this fellowship. I could not have done it without them.” he said.

He was specifically awarded the Joseph W. Richards Summer Fellowship, which honors the memory of the first president of ECS.

Gunawan said his involvement in the ASU student chapter of The Electrochemical Society, formed in 2013, has also helped spark his interest in applying  his mechanical engineering training to the electrochemical field.

He now plans to pursue postdoctoral training to expand his interdisciplinary research portfolio.

“It is kind of surprising to me because I never would have expected to be doing all of these things,” he said. “I wasn’t really good at chemistry in high school, and in college I always got bad grades in my electrical engineering electives, but now I’m doing all this research in electrochemistry.”

Media Contact
Joe Kullman, joe.Kullman@asu.edu
(480) 965-8122
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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