Society Announces 2023-2024 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Recipients

Pennington, NJ – Yaocai Bai and Yuzhang Li received the 2023–2024 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowships for projects in green energy technology. The fellowship program is a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota North America’s (TMNA) Advanced Mobility R&D. Through this program, ECS and Toyota promote innovative and unconventional green energy technologies born from electrochemical research—and encourage young professionals and scholars to pursue battery and fuel cell research. This is the ninth year that the fellowships have been awarded. Since its inception, the program has awarded in excess of $1.5M in research funding to 30 young investigators (including the 2023–2024 recipients).

2023-2024 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellows
Yaocai Bai

Yaocai Bai

Yaocai Bai
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
“Solvent-based Binder Removal towards Sustainable Direct Cathode Recycling”

Yaocai Bai is an R&D Associate Staff Scientist pursuing postdoctoral research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) under the supervision of Dr. Ilias Belharouak in the Emerging and Solid-State Batteries Group. Dr. Bai is the focus area lead for the Advanced Resource Recovery research thrust in DOE’s ReCell Center for Advanced Battery Recycling. His research emphasis is on accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy through materials innovation and developing efficient and cost-effective processes for lithium ion battery recycling, specifically with respect to electrode/metal separation and direct cathode regeneration.

Through the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, Dr. Bai will address binder removal, the key challenge associated with direct recycling of battery materials today. Direct recycling represents the highest potential value gain towards reclaiming cathode materials from spent batteries. He will investigate effective and green processes to separate active materials from delaminated cathodes, a sustainable low carbon footprint approach with the elimination of hazardous materials.

Dr. Bai received his BS in Materials Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in 2010 and MS in Materials Science in 2012 from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. He completed his PhD in Materials Science under Prof. Yadong Yin at the University of California, Riverside, in 2017. He worked as Postdoctoral Researcher under Dr. Ilias Belharouak at ORNL from 2019-2021 before he was named to his current position. The author of 52 articles with an h-index of 25, and four books/book chapters, Dr. Bai has seven patents pending and one granted patent. He served as Guest Editor for Batteries, and Clean Technologies and Recycling. Dr. Bai joined ECS in 2020 and has chaired/cochaired four sessions at ECS meetings.

Yuzhang Li

Yuzhang Li

Yuzhang Li
University of California, Los Angeles
“Cryo-EM of Nanoscale Interfaces in Energy Storage and Carbon Capture Materials”

Yuzhang Li is an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research focuses on renewable energy generation and storage, nanomaterials design and synthesis, cryogenic-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM), and in situ transmission electron microscopy.

Through the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, Prof. Li builds on the proven track record for Cryo-EM technique building and analysis, and uses electron microscopy as a powerful tool to study battery materials (Li, Li SEI, and others). Li metal easily melts and evaporates by the electron beam; other materials degrade, too. Cryo-EM allows the non-destructive study of Li, SEI, Lix, Sn, graphite, S, and their interphases. The ultimate target is anode-less lithium metal anodes.

After completing his BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in 2013, he received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University in 2018 under the supervision of ECS Fellow Yi Cui. He pursued a postdoc under Robert Sinclair at Stanford, then joined the faculty of UCLA in 2020. He is the author of 56 articles with an h-index of 42 and holds three patents. His research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Award (2022), NSF CAREER Award (2022), American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Grant (2022), Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2018-2020), and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2013-2016). Awards received include the 2018 ECS San Francisco Section Daniel Cubicciotti Student Award and 2017 Materials Research Society Graduate Student Award. Forbes included him in the 2021 “30 Under 30” young innovators list. Dr. Li became a member of ECS in January 2022.

2023–2024 ECS Toyota Young Investigators Fellowships

The Fellows each receive a $50,000 grant to conduct the research outlined in their proposals and a one-year complimentary ECS membership. They submit a midway progress report to ECS and, after one year of funding, a final written report. TRINA invites them semiannually to present their research progress. Their findings are published open access in a relevant ECS journal, and within 24 months of the end of the research period, presented at an ECS meeting. Toyota may choose to enter into a research agreement to continue working with the Fellows after their fellowship ends.

2023–2024 ECS Toyota Young Investigators Fellowship Selection Committee

ECS gratefully acknowledges the service of the following ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Selection Committee members who reviewed 40 proposals for the 2023–2024 program.

Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA)

  • Timothy (Tim) Arthur, Senior Manager, Research Strategy Office, TRINA
  • Masato Hozumi, Executive Engineer and Senior Manager, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Charles (Chip) Roberts, Senior Research Manager, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Gaohua Zhu, Senior Scientist, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Rana Mohtadi, Senior Principal Scientist, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Nik Singh, Senior Scientist, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Shingo Otah, Executive Engineer, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • Chen Ling, Senior Principal Scientist, Materials Research Department, TRINA
  • John Muldoon, Senior Principal Scientist, Materials Research Department, TRINA

The Electrochemical Society

  • Amy Prieto, Professor, Colorado State University
  • Joaquin Rodriguez-Lopez, J. Andrew and Susan S. Langan Professorial Scholar, LAS Distinguished Professorial Scholar and Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • John T. Vaughey, Senior Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory
2024-2025 fellowship cycle

The request for proposals for the next ECS Toyota Fellowship cycle opens in November 2023. The proposal submission deadline has been extended to February 23, 2024, with candidate interviews scheduled for spring 2024. Fellows’ names are announced in August 2024. Consult the ECS website for more information and to submit a proposal.

The Electrochemical Society (ECS)

The nonprofit professional Electrochemical Society has led the world in electrochemistry and solid state science and technology and allied subjects since 1902. We advance scientific theory and practice through publications, meetings, continuing education, and collaboration. Our robust global membership develops solutions to the planet’s major challenges. Scientists, engineers, and industry leaders share research at ECS biannual, co-hosted, and sponsored meetings. The ECS Digital Library on IOPscience hosts abstracts and highly peer-reviewed articles from publications, including the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (the oldest journal in its field), ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, and new open access journals ECS Sensors Plus and ECS Advances.

Media Contacts
The Electrochemical Society
Shannon Reed
Director of Community Relations
609.737.1902, Ext. 107

Toyota Research Institute of North America
Rick Bourgoise
Manager, Mobility Technology Communications