Andrej Lenert, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award for enabling light-driven thermodynamic cycles.
Lenert’s research aims to advance the technology of using light as a “working fluid” in thermodynamic cycles such as power generation, heat pumping, and refrigeration. The project plans to overcome the barriers in the photonic analogs to fluids and refrigerants by developing a novel device architecture that eliminates key energy losses in these systems and allows for the heterogeneous integration of various high-quality semiconductors.
“I’m thrilled to receive this prestigious award to expand the boundaries of what is possible with light and photovoltaic devices,” Lenert said.
Such solid-state devices can leapfrog the limitations of current mechanical processes and offer significant advantages in applications where size, cost, speed, and reliability are important.
This project will also introduce the principles of optical thermodynamics to under-resourced schools in metro Detroit and offer workshops that demystify graduate school to help expand STEM opportunities to under-represented communities.
Lenert received his PhD from MIT in 2014, where he worked under the supervision of Evelyn N. Wang and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan prior to his appointment here. In addition to this award, Lenert is the recipient of several recognitions including the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, the College of Engineering 1938E Award and the Department Excellence Award. He is currently serving as the Department Recruiting Chair and a Director of the Transport and Energy Processes Division within AIChE.
The Lenert Lab, aims to help address global sustainability and decarbonization challenges by studying transport at the nanoscale to develop tailored materials for improvements in power generation, energy storage, and thermal management. Current research efforts include efficient solar energy systems for industrial process heat and agriculture, thermophotovoltaic devices for long duration energy storage, materials in extreme environments, and microfabricated devices for sensing and cooling. The NSF funds research and education in science and engineering, through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, in total accounting for approximately 20% of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.