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Summer Research Programs at NETL Take on Energy Challenges
The Laboratory’s researchers have proudly served as mentors in MLEF since its inception and also contribute much to CIESESE.

For nearly 20 years, the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) program has not only been improving opportunities for under-represented students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it has also built a diverse foundation of future STEM professionals. That important mission has been bolstered recently through the success of another opportunity called the Consortium for Integrating Energy Systems in Engineering and Science Education (CIESESE).

The Laboratory’s researchers have proudly served as mentors in MLEF since its inception and also contribute much to CIESESE. Both programs support the Energy Department’s goal to build a sustainable professional and academic pipeline ready to take on the challenges of current and future energy systems.

We frequently tout the benefits of our graduate education programs and the successes that result – but what does a summer with NETL look like? It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill summer experience. Here’s a snapshot of some of our interns and the research areas they’re investigating with their mentors in NETL labs.

In the Hyper Facility, interns are contributing to several projects related to coupling fuel cell and gas turbine technologies. The research includes a range of projects, from improving power infrastructure, to increasing the conversion of energy from intense thermal resources, to developing control strategies for the reliable operation of these highly efficient systems.

In the field of carbon capture and storage, interns are investigating solvents and membranes for CO2separation and capture. They’re gaining the skills necessary to generate and monitor scientific engineering research projects through their life cycle. They’re researching materials for the catalytic conversion of CO2into value-added chemicals, and they’re modeling projects that combine CO2 storage and geothermal energy. Endeavors in these fields are contributing to sustainable use of fossil fuel resources while helping to offset the cost associated with carbon capture technologies.

The efforts of our summer research associates span a wide range of research areas. For example, our MLEF and CIESESE colleagues are validating computational models, investigating the extraction of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts, and developing oxygen carriers for chemical looping combustion of fossil fuels. They’re using the image analysis and microscopy capabilities in the CT Scanning Laboratory to study flow and permeability in porous geomaterials to help us better understand the subsurface. With NETL sensor experts, summer research associates are developing disposable temperature sensors and studying corrosion behavior to advance corrosion sensing and mitigation in natural gas pipelines - efforts that will play a significant role for the safety and integrity of oil and gas operations.

In other natural-gas-related projects, interns are quantifying methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure, studying water permeation through seams in composite liners for natural gas pipelines, and analyzing natural fracture networks at the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Lab.

And, in collaboration with the NETL Reaction Engineering team, summer research associates are studying how microwave-induced reaction chemistry can be used with catalyst materials and how microwave-based electric devices can be used in fossil energy exploration.

These are just a few examples of the valuable research our MLEF and CIESESE summer research associates are contributing toward NETL’s mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. To read more about these up-and-coming scientists and engineers visit our 2018 Summer Research Associates page.  


As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.