Rao Training Students to Become Future Clean Energy Innovators

Pratap Rao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has received a one-year, $59,265 grant to train students to become innovators in the clean energy field and to help bolster the clean energy industry in Massachusetts. Two PhD students and one undergraduate will be involved in Rao’s research, which is aimed at finding novel catalyst materials that can decrease the cost of producing hydrogen from water. Today, hydrogen production requires an expensive platinum catalyst. Creating hydrogen is key to powering fuel cells, which are used in both stationary power and automotive applications. Rao’s project is focused on improving the performance of catalyst materials, such as tungsten dioxide (WS2),a two-dimensional layered material that is a promising catalyst option. The WPI team is synthesizing the catalyst materials and testing, modeling, and enhancing their capabilities. Aaron Deskins, associate professor of chemical engineering, is co-principal investigator on the research project. WPI’s award is a subcontract from Boston College, which received the initial grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.