A Future Enabled by Electricity? Non-Thermal Plasmas as the Next Frontier
The urgent challenges of both climate change and energy security demand that new technologies emerge to address the many facets that contribute to fossil fuel usage and subsequent pollution. Plasmas, also called gas discharges, are one of the unsung heroes of modern science and engineering. In addition to being used for important scientific discoveries throughout history – such as the discovery of argon – one class of plasmas, called non-equilibrium or non-thermal plasmas, have also formed the backbone of many technologies that sustain the modern world, from microelectronics to lighting. Recently, a number of advances have shown that the non-equilibrium environment in the plasma is well-suited to overcoming challenges across a wide variety of domains, leading to a number of emerging areas where plasma engineering is well-posed to make important contributions to the energy sector over the next several decades. In this talk, I will present a vision for ‘electrifying’ the chemical production industry that reimagines both conventional electrochemistry and heterogeneous catalysis by incorporating non-thermal plasmas. I will overview the work of two collaborative teams at Notre Dame tackling these fields – plasma electrochemistry and plasma catalysis – and show how taking advantage of the non-equilibrium conditions of a non-thermal plasma open up new opportunities for chemical synthesis and conversion. I will conclude the talk with thoughts about the future of engineering and what this may mean in terms of becoming an ‘influential engineer’ or ‘servant engineer’.
David B. Go is the Viola D. Hank Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, with a concurrent appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to joining Notre Dame in 2008, Professor Go received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame (2001), M.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Cincinnati (2004), and Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University (2008). He also worked as a design engineer at General Electric Aviation, graduating from their Edison Engineering Development Program (2004). Professor Go has published widely in the areas of plasma science and engineering, heat transfer and fluid dynamics, and chemical analysis and holds 7 patents or patent applications, leading to two licensed technologies. He has been recognized with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Award, the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Electrochemistry Society Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, the Electrostatics Society of America Rising Star Award, and the IEEE Nuclear & Plasma Sciences Society Early Achievement Award. He is an ASME Fellow and the President of the Electrostatics Society of America. At Notre Dame, Professor Go has received the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, served as a Kanab Center for Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellow, and won second place in the 1st Source Bank Commercialization competition.