MSUToday
Published: April 27, 2016

MSU assistant professor receives $500,000 NSF CAREER Award

Contact(s): Patricia Mroczek College of Engineering office: (517) 432-1303 mroczekp@egr.msu.edu

Wei Lai, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science in the MSU College of Engineering, has been awarded a five-year $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award.

The CAREER Award is among the NSF's most prestigious honors, recognizing young faculty members who are effectively integrating research and teaching.

This grant will allow Lai to explore if sodium-based batteries could replace the more popular lithium-ion batteries as a sustainable power source.

“This CAREER project studies the structure-property relationships of a unique family of bi-functional – as either cathode or anode – sodium electrode materials,” Lai said. “Shedding light on the fundamental mechanisms could enhance materials performance and design, and lead to the discovery of new materials.”

Lai said the project also enables a museum exhibition called, “Batteries: Powering the Past, Present and Future.”

“I am hoping to raise awareness and inspire public interest in the science and engineering principles of ubiquitous battery devices in our daily lives,” he said.

Lai becomes the 12th member of the MSU College of Engineering faculty to receive an NSF CAREER Award since 2010.

He joined MSU in the fall of 2009 with research interests in ceramics, energy and electrochemistry.

Wei Lai, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science in the MSU College of Engineering. Photo courtesy of MSU.

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