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Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar

Thursday, April 18, 2024
11:00am to 12:00pm
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Gates-Thomas 135
Micro/nanoscale reactive transport toward decarbonization
Wen Song, Assistant Professor, Center for Subsurface Energy and the Environment, University of Texas at Austin,

Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar Series

Title: Micro/nanoscale reactive transport toward decarbonization

Abstract: At-scale energy decarbonization will require extraordinary volumes of mineral resources. Demand for rare earth elements (REEs) – materials critical to the function of magnets and catalysts used in wind turbines and low-carbon vehicles – is forecasted to grow 5-fold by 2035 and outpace supply. In this talk, I will discuss the reclamation of industrial wastes such as coal fly ash as an alternative source of REEs. Specifically, micro/nanoscale morphology and crystallography of the silicate-based particulates are characterized to provide insight on the coupled fluid- and solid-state reactive transport mechanisms that enable REEs extraction. We reveal surprising insights, including reaction-limited solid-state leaching in nonporous matrices, and the role of crystallinity on REEs extraction efficiency and leachate purity. The micro/nanovisual insights here coupled with analytical chemistry and fluid mechanics provide a path toward securing the supply of minerals critical to decarbonization.

Bio: Wen Song is a George H. Fancher Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research aims to understand the interfacial reactions and coupled transport mechanisms that control energy and environmental processes in natural and engineered porous media. Specifically, she develops novel micro/nanovisualization platforms that enable the in situ observation of fluid-fluid and fluid-solid interactions with ~ nm, ~ real-time, and chemical species resolution, and combines experimental observations with analytical chemistry and fluid mechanics to elucidate fundamental interfacial mechanisms within porous materials. She received her Ph.D. in energy resources engineering from Stanford University in 2019 prior to joining UT Austin. She is a recent recipient of the NSF CAREER, ACS PRF, and EAGE Arie van Weelden awards, and is a Scialog Negative Emissions Science fellow.

NOTE: At this time, in-person Mechanical and Civil Engineering Lectures are open to all Caltech students/staff/faculty/visitors.

For more information, please contact Kristen Bazua by phone at (626) 395-3385 or by email at [email protected] or visit