UT Austin and SwRI Support Five Collaborative Energy Research Projects

September 8, 2022

The University of Texas at Austin and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have selected five projects to be funded by the Energize Program, a new opportunity for enhanced scientific collaboration between the two institutions focused on energy research.

“I have no doubt that with the combined capabilities and expertise of SwRI and UT Austin, these projects will have a strong, positive impact on some of our greatest challenges in the energy sector,” said SwRI Executive Vice President and COO Walt Downing.

The Energize Program includes two funding opportunities. The first, overseen by UT’s Energy Institute, funds projects in any energy field with a focus on decarbonization. The second, run by the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, funds projects in any field of energy-related research, including oil and gas, renewable resources, hydrogen, carbon storage, and geothermal energy. All projects include at least one principal investigator from each institution.

Through the program led by The Energy Institute and SwRI, three projects were selected:

  • UT Austin professors Thomas C. Underwood and Fabrizio Bisetti, Graeme Henkelman and C. Buddie Mullins will work with SwRI’s Michael Miller to create a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method for producing hydrogen fuel. Although hydrogen could help decarbonize transportation, electricity generation, and manufacturing, conventional industrial hydrogen production from natural gas creates significant greenhouse gas emissions. The project aims to develop a plasma-enabled catalytic process to eliminate carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions, converting methane directly into hydrogen and solid carbon near room temperature and atmospheric pressure. The project builds on expertise of plasma-enabled chemical processes and catalysis at UT Austin and SwRI. Underwood is an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE/EM). Bisetti is an associate professor in the ASE/EM department and is affiliated with the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Henkelman, also affiliated with the Oden Institute, is a professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences, where he holds the George W. Watt Centennial Professorship. Mullins is a professor in the Cockrell School's McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and holds the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering.
  • UT Austin’s David Bogard and SwRI senior research engineer Ellen Smith will work to develop and evaluate an enhanced turbine cooling method to facilitate the use of cleaner hydrogen fuel engine applications. Hydrogen fuel exhaust is free from carbon byproducts, but it requires higher engine combustion temperatures, resulting in higher heat transfer. Smith and Bogard will use additive manufacturing to design and build a turbine strut with advanced cooling technologies to enable high-temperature operations. The design will incorporate film cooling configurations recently developed at UT Austin and will be tested in the hydrogen burning combustor facility at SwRI. Bogard is a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he serves as associate department chair and holds the Baker Hughes Incorporated Centennial Professorship in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Professors Alex Hanson and Jean Anne Incorvia, both of the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will collaborate with SwRI principal scientist Jianliang Lin to create reliable and affordable magnetized chip technology for next-generation energy technologies. Many climate-relevant next-generation technologies—data center power delivery, grid-scale smart transformers, advanced solar and battery management systems, and climate-relevant internet-of-things applications—require expensive components, impeding large-scale adoption. Magnetic chips are very energy-efficient, but integrating the magnetic components can be challenging and costly. The team will develop a large-scale rapid coating deposition technology for synthesizing high-quality and affordable magnetic materials for use in a wide array of technologies. Hanson holds the Jack Kilby/Texas Instruments Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Computer Engineering and Incorvia holds the Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Chair in Computer Engineering Fellowship.
  • The Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering has selected two projects, each to be supported by funding from both SwRI and UT Austin. The projects are: 

  • SwRI’s Angel Wileman and Sarah Stuart will collaborate with UT Austin professors David DiCarlo and Masa Prodanovic to study CO2 foams in an effort to improve long-term carbon storage in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. Although carbon storage is a viable method for reducing atmospheric carbon, there are significant challenges in ensuring the stored CO2 is stable within the reservoir and does not permeate back to the surface. To address this, the researchers will leverage traditional CO2 enhanced oil recovery methods to investigate the stability and behavior of foam-entrapped CO2 in high-temperature and high-pressure reservoir conditions. DiCarlo is an associate professor in the Cockrell School’s Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, where he holds the George H. Fancher Centennial Teaching Fellowship in Petroleum Engineering. Prodanovic is a professor in the Hildebrand Department and holds the Frank W. Jessen Professorship in Petroleum Engineering.
  • SwRI’s Kevin Supak, Jordan Nielson and Kelsi Katcher will work with UT's Yingda Lu to study CO2 pipeline flow behaviors as part of a larger effort to facilitate large-scale carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS). Before CCUS technology can reach its potential for reducing harmful CO2 emissions, a cost-effective method for transporting large quantities of CO2 is needed. To facilitate the design and operation of large-scale CCUS transportation systems, the project team will investigate the flow behaviors of CO2 under typical pipeline transportation conditions. The project utilizes UT Austin’s expertise in multiphase flow modeling and SwRI’s expertise in large-scale multiphase flow research. Lu is an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.

The Energize Program projects will begin in September.