Topic Close-up #15


D02—Plasma and Thermal Processes for Materials Modification, Synthesis, and Processing

Extended abstract deadline:
April 21, 2023

For additional information on symposia offered at the 244th ECS Meeting, consult additional topic close-ups.

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Reutilizing carbon dioxide to produce clean burning fuels

Carbon dioxide

David Go has always seen himself as something of a black sheep when it comes to his scientific research approach, and his recent work in developing clean alternative fuels from carbon dioxide is no exception.

In 2015, Go and his research team at the University of Notre Dame were awarded a $50,000 grant to purse innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology through the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship. With a goal of aiding scientists in advancing alternative energies, the fellowship aims to empower young researchers in creating next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels that can lead to climate change action in transportation.

The road less traveled

While advancing research in electric vehicles and fuel cells tend to be the top research areas in sustainable transportation, Go and his team is opting to go down the road less traveled through a new approach to green chemistry: plasma electrochemistry.

(MORE: Read Go’s Meeting Abstract on this topic, entitled “Electrochemical Reduction of CO2(aq) By Solvated Electrons at a Plasma-Liquid Interface.”)

“Our approach to electrochemistry is completely a-typical,” Go, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, says. “We use a technique called plasma electrochemistry with the aim of processing carbon dioxide – a pollutant – back into more useful products, such as clean-burning fuels.”


Science of Lightsabers

May the 4th be with you

Whether you’re a Star Wars superfan or find yourself lost when the conversation turns to discussions of the feasibility of the Death Star, you can probably identify the epic space series’ iconic lightsaber. The lightsaber has become one of the most recognizable images in popular culture, but is it purely fiction or could it be a reality?

According to the Star Wars books, lightsabers are pretty complex devices but essentially boil down to a few key elements: a power source and emitter to create light, a crystal to focus the light into a blade, a blade containment field, and a negatively charged fissure. In the Star Wars galaxy, a lightsaber creates energy, focuses it, and contains it.

But that’s fiction and those ideas are not in line with current science and technology. So how could we build a lightsaber with the tools we have today?

Many people look initially to laser technology when discussing a practical lightsaber. It’s unrealistic to say that light could be the source of the blade seeing as light has no mass (creating a pretty insufficient weapon), but lasers could be an alternative. It may seem contradictory to say that lasers could be the blade in a lightsaber when lasers are essentially light focused to a very fine point, but as Looper puts it, light is to a laser what a tree is to paper.