News Release

Release Date: March 16, 2016

NETL Researcher Wins Carnegie Science Award for Outstanding Innovation in Energy

Dr. Shiwoo Lee, pictured here with NETL’s Fuel Cell Test Stack.

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researcher Dr. Shiwoo Lee has been honored with an Innovation in Energy award by the Carnegie Science Center. Dr. Lee is being recognized for his work on critical efficiency improvements that will make solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs)—an efficient, combustion-less, virtually pollution-free power source capable of using fossil fuels—economically attractive for widespread and industry use.

Dr. Lee and his research colleagues developed a one-step infiltration technique that deploys engineered nanomaterials to active sites within a SOFC’s cathode (the electrode where oxygen reduction takes place), thereby increasing the durability and efficiency of the cell. The technique marks a transformative achievement in energy innovation.

SOFCs have the potential to be one of the cleanest, most efficient energy technologies for direct conversion of chemical fuels to electricity. However, to attain widespread market penetration, SOFC systems require continued innovation to improve system lifespan and reduce costs. Industry tests of SOFCs generated using Dr. Lee’s process have demonstrated increases in power density greater than 10 percent, reductions in relative degradation rate of more than 30 percent, and a doubling of cell lifetime.

Regionally, Dr. Lee’s cathode infiltration technology answers the call for clean electric power from western Pennsylvania’s rich fossil resources. By advancing a technology that uses coal and natural gas in a clean, efficient manner, Dr. Lee’s technique will benefit the coal and natural gas industry in western Pennsylvania, as well as potential fuel cell manufacturers in the region.

Nationally, Dr. Lee’s innovation provides the necessary improvements for SOFCs to become an affordable, efficient, and integral part of America’s energy picture for large-scale electricity generation. Dr. Lee’s technique is specifically designed to move improved, infiltrated SOFCs from lab to market by employing a simple, effective process that industry could easily adopt to mass produce infiltrated SOFCs.

“Over more than 5 years, Dr. Lee has labored to pursue the difficult research and partnerships necessary to transition infiltration technology from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace,” said NETL Chief of Staff Dr. Kirk Gerdes, “His diligence and patience have simultaneously created multiple licensable technologies and explored the fundamental basis for technology advances that promise an even higher impact. Dr. Lee’s development and technology transfer efforts represent the standard for great engineering, and his colleagues aspire to replicate his achievements.”

A research engineer with AECOM, Dr. Lee first became affiliated with NETL in 2010 as a National Research Council senior research fellow, leading research on SOFC cathode and electrocatalyst development. During this appointment, Dr. Lee also developed his electrocatalyst-modified composite cathode and its manufacturing process, which has been applied to multiple DOE industrial partners’ full-scale fuel cell stacks.

Dr. Lee will receive his award on May 6, 2016, at the 20th Annual Carnegie Science Award celebration at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, Pa. The Carnegie Science Center established the Carnegie Science Awards program in 1997 to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in western Pennsylvania. The center’s Innovation in Energy award honors transformative growth of applied scientific research in regard to the discovery and development of new, cleaner technologies in the Pittsburgh region.