Batteries can be found in almost anything, but what happens when you push them to their limit? That’s what Dr. Jason Porter, one of the newest mechanical engineering faculty members at Brigham Young University, is researching to find out.
His current area of focus is battery research and the development of optical tools to study what’s happening inside batteries when pushed to their extremes.
“My research focuses on developing optical tools for studying the internal workings of batteries at the fundamental level of ion transport and chemical reactions” Dr. Porter said. “These tools are being used to better understand what limits extreme fast charging, what leads to battery failure and fires, and how we can develop batteries that outperform today’s best lithium-ion batteries.”
Dr. Porter’s initial interest in engineering developed via energy. He learned about the energy crises and renewable energy while getting his associates degree at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University). He wanted to be part of the solution.
“I saw mechanical engineering as a diversity of research that would let me tackle energy in different directions,” Dr. Porter said. “So, my research now is really on the border of physics and chemical engineering and mechanical engineering.”
He loves watching measurements and math problems come to life as he does his research.
“It's still amazing to me. It's like magic when I predict that something is going to happen, and then to actually see the physical world obey the laws and models that we create for it is always fascinating to me,” Porter said.
Dr. Porter also has a love for teaching. It first developed when he was an instructor at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. With the encouragement of a few mechanical engineering faculty, including his capstone advisor, he did research and started on the path to becoming a professor.
His love for optical diagnostics came during his doctoral research at Stanford, where he developed custom optical sensors for Nissan Motor Co. After graduating, he joined the faculty at the Colorado School of Mines, in Golden Colorado. He built a research lab, had leadership responsibilities at the university, and was heavily involved in the church there.
But after almost 14 years in Colorado, Porter and his family left it all behind and came back to BYU based on a prompting.
“I did my undergraduate here, we have family out here, and we have college age kids that are coming out here to go to school,” Dr. Porter said. “So all those things attracted me to the area. But what actually brought me out here was an answer to prayer. I felt inspired to do it.”
The focus on the student and incorporation of the gospel into academia were two factors that drew Dr. Porter back to BYU. He loves the idea of watching his students grow.
“Every university says they focus on their students, but at BYU I think we really mean it,” Dr. Porter said. “All of our effort is on creating great learning opportunities for our students, mentoring students, and helping students apply the gospel in their lives and go out and serve. I think that's really easy to get behind and get excited about.”
Porter is also excited to be back in the shadow of Mt. Timpanogos and living next to the Murdock trail in Lindon to pursue his passion for biking and hiking.
The California native grew up on a hog farm, served a mission in Hong Kong, and met his wife while here at BYU. They have three children of their own.
Staying curious and being willing to take chances, whether it be taking a new class or extracurricular, changing a major, or any other life event, is super important to Porter. He learned this by experience.
“After many years in one place you get kind of comfortable. To turn that on its head and take a big leap of faith has been rejuvenating as a middle-aged person, and I think that's good advice for any age,” Porter said. “Don't be afraid to take risks and follow your heart.”
Professor Porter is teaching heat transfer Fall 2023, and manufacturing processes Winter 2024. He’s excited to involve undergraduates in his lab and on research teams. Visit Dr. Porter during his office hours to learn more about his research.