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New faculty member continues work into advanced lithium battery research

The newest chemical engineering faculty member, Associate Professor Yangchuan Xing, plans to continue his ongoing research into lithium air batteries that he started while teaching at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Xing joined the MU faculty in January.

The newest face among the chemical engineering faculty in the University of Missouri College of Engineering is no stranger to academia. Associate Professor Yangchuan Xing joined Mizzou Engineering after 10 years at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Xing brings with him his current research, which focuses on energy conversion and storage. The project is funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (DOE ARPA-E) and aims to develop new lithium-air batteries.

The $1.2 million grant is part of ARPA-E’s Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST) program. In the past year and a half, Xing and his team at Missouri S&T worked on the battery’s air cathode, the part of the battery where oxygen reacts with lithium to create electricity.

The aim is to make this type of battery applicable to electric vehicles — providing a more efficient and more powerful energy source for those cars and achieving a longer mileage range and a lower cost.

Now that the project is at MU, Xing will help the project transition to a new team of MU researchers who will continue work on the project until July 2013.

“We’re making progress and meeting the milestones,” Xing said. “Hopefully, by the end of the project, we will have a technology.”

His focus on energy and advanced materials and chemical reaction systems developed after joining the faculty in Rolla.

“After I joined Missouri S&T, I took the direction to go into energy. Fuel cells were a hot topic at that time,” he said. The research into energy and fuel cells evolved its way into the topic of energy storage, leading into the technologies involved with the Li-Air battery. Xing pitched this research idea to ARPA-E, and was awarded the grant in 2010.

“Conceptually, the research is new, and that’s why ARPA-E wants to get into it,” he said.

The college and city of Columbia attracted him to MU. “The engineering school is growing,” Xing said, adding that MU’s chemical engineering department has fewer students enrolled, but that allows him to spend more time working with each student.

Xing earned his bachelor’s degree at the Northeast Institute of Technology in China and his master’s degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He moved to the U.S., and earned his doctorate from Yale University, completing  post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University before starting at Missouri S&T. He began his work at Mizzou Engineering  in January.