Lab researcher receives 2021 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship

September 16, 2021

Siddharth Komini Babu
Siddharth Komini Babu

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Sept. 16, 2021Siddharth Komini Babu (MPA-11) has received an Electrochemical Society (ECS) Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for Projects in Green Energy Technology.

The $50,000 fellowship supports young electrochemical researchers as they develop battery and fuel cell technology, including research topics that may result in further technological innovation. It is offered by the Electrochemical Society and the Toyota Research Institute of North America, a division of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America.

“We’re proud that one of our early-career researchers has received a fellowship that recognizes the importance of using science and technology to advance green energy solutions,” said Deputy Laboratory Director John Sarrao. “Komini Babu’s research is well aligned with Laboratory’s agenda for mission-focused science, technology, and engineering, and we’re grateful that this fellowship will help build on our innovative work that contributes to sustainable energy solutions.”

Searching for increased fuel cell durability

Komini Babu’s proposal for the fellowship investigates the role of gas diffusion layers (GDLs) and microporous layers (MPLs) on the durability of polymer electrolyte fuel cells. Components in the fuel cell system can corrode during operation, which leads to metal contaminant ions eventually being transported into the fuel cell electrode through the GDL and the MPL. These ions cause severe degradation in the fuel cell, reducing the device lifetime. Komini Babu’s work focuses on developing a GDL architecture that can increase fuel cell durability by suppressing or eliminating the transport of these contaminants. He also aims to improve long-term operational durability of GDLs and MPLs by tailoring them separately for the negative (or anode) and the positive (or cathode) side of the fuel cell, where the chemical energy of the fuel (hydrogen) and oxidizer (oxygen) is converted to electrical energy. Improved fuel cell durability is an important development for sustainable energy conversion used in a variety of applications, from transportation to stationary energy generation.

Graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a doctoral degree in 2016, Komini Babu conducted postdoctoral work at the Lab from 2016-2019 before becoming staff scientist. He is the author of more than 25 articles and has four patent applications. His research uses computational and experimental methods to understand transport phenomena and electrode architecture development for fuel cells and electrolyzers.