Prof. Feng Lin has been awarded a five-year, $600K NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award through the Division of Materials Research. The project is titled, “Understanding Chemical, Structural and Redox Properties of Disordered Metal Oxides” and the group will focus on understanding fundamental insights which will lead to designing an improved rechargeable battery. 

According to the abstract, there have been recent, exciting discoveries in new battery materials with disordered lithium ion transport pathways that should theoretically provide a much higher capacity. Unfortunately, these new materials have exhibited an inferior battery performance compared to conventional materials. With this CAREER Award, the Lin group will use advanced experimental methods to better understand the electrochemical processes in these new disordered materials to improve upon their application. 

In addition to battery research, Lin’s group will use funding from the award to outreach to K-12 schools in the area, with a special focus on the dyslexic student population. The proposal outlined creating detailed scientific experiment kits for different age groups that will initially be distributed to all students with a subset of activities designed for dyslexic students. Many dyslexic students have been found to be better than their peers at manipulating 3D objects in their minds and pattern recognition in complex systems, two strengths important to STEM fields. To supplement their academic year schoolwork, local summer camps, sponsored by Decoding Dyslexia Virginia, offer programs that focus on subjects such as reading enhancement. The Lin lab will work with these summer camps to develop STEM activities to round out the current programming. 

Lin, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been part of the Virginia Tech community since 2016. After earning his Ph.D. in Materials Science from Colorado School of Mines, Lin went onto work as a postdoctoral researcher and then a guest scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He has continued this relationship with the National Laboratories to the present and his group collaborates with several National Laboratories including Argonne National Lab, Brookhaven National Lab, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, and SLAC National Accelerator Lab. These collaborations have enabled his group to pursue multifaceted research projects at the crossroads of interdisciplinary energy research and materials discovery.