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Energy Conservation and Storage Expert Zawodzinski Named Fifth UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair

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KNOXVILLE — Thomas Zawodzinski, an expert and innovator in fuel cell and related energy storage science and technology, has been named the fifth University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair.

Zawodzinski will serve in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department at UT Knoxville and in the physical chemistry of materials group in ORNL’s materials science and technology division.

He previously was the F. Alex Nason professor of engineering, the Ohio eminent scholar for fuel cells and the director of the Case Advanced Power Institute at Case Western Reserve University.

“Dr. Zawodzinski’s addition to this growing group of exemplary scholars is yet another signal that those ready to seek real solutions to the state’s and world’s problems find their way to UT,” said Interim UT President Jan Simek.

The Governor’s Chair program, funded by the state of Tennessee and ORNL, attracts top scientists to broaden and enhance the unique research partnership that exists between the state’s flagship university and the nation’s largest multi-program laboratory.

Zawodzinski, who will serve as the Governor’s Chair for electrical energy storage, is the fourth Governor’s Chair appointment this year.

“This latest Governor’s Chair appointment continues the momentum we’ve created in bringing leading researchers to Tennessee,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “The growing recognition of the caliber of talent we have recruited in Tennessee is already having a positive impact on economic development and will move our state forward in research and innovation.”

Fuel cells are designed to use hydrogen to generate electricity that could be used to power vehicles with almost no pollution or carbon emissions. The main byproduct of fuel cells is water, but challenges remain in making the fuel cells efficient and cost-effective as a major part of the world’s energy solutions.  Closely related battery technologies are the subject of intense international development efforts for applications ranging from electrified vehicles to supporting the grid and providing energy storage for intermittent alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

“Thomas Zawodzinski’s work bridges the gap between fundamental fuel cell research and the practical ways we can make this technology widely useful,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “His Governor’s Chair appointment will continue to enhance our role as a national leader in energy research.”

Zawodzinski focuses on ways to make these technologies more durable over the long term, how to ensure that the cells function properly at higher temperatures and ways to improve the basic mechanics of the chemical reactions at the heart of how fuel cells can be used to generate electricity and batteries store electrical energy.

As a Governor’s Chair, Zawodzinski will have the opportunity to further his research by taking advantage of the advanced resources and expertise available at both UT Knoxville and ORNL.

“Thomas Zawodzinski is an innovator in chemical and materials science research related to energy storage applications,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “Teaming his expertise with the scientific resources at UT and ORNL advances the nation’s research effort in this field. We are very pleased to have him named to the Governor’s Chair program.”

Prior to joining Case Western, Zawodzinski spent 13 years as a postdoctoral fellow, project leader and team leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He earned his bachelors degree in chemistry and cellular and molecular biology and his doctorate in analytical and physical chemistry from the State University of New York, Buffalo (now the University of Buffalo).

About the Governor’s Chair program:

The UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair program is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost joint research efforts that position the partnership as a leader in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials and neutron science.

Other UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs include:

Jeremy Smith, a computational biologist who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He was appointed in 2006. Howard Hall, an expert in nuclear security who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He was appointed this year. Alexei Sokolov, a polymer scientist who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from the University of Akron. He was appointed this year. Yilu Liu, an electric grid researcher who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from Virginia Tech. She was appointed this year.

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Category: Announcements