NYSG Research Initiation Award

Award Date: March 2012


Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Samuel Amanuel, has been awarded a $12,753 Research Initiation Grant through the Cornell University - NASA New York Space Grant Consortium.  Research initiation grants from the New York Space Grant are intended to help faculty at NYSG member institutions develop nationally competitive research programs in areas that are of priority to NASA missions, research, and technologies.  Professor Amanuel's project "Specific Heat Capacity Measurements of Physically Confined Heat Transfer Fluids in Nano Porous Silica" will further advance research and research-training endeavors building upon Union's existing Space Grant program.  The Union College program seeks to provide information, training and experience to a diverse group of students, enhancing their skills and knowledge so they can make educated choices regarding their future in STEM disciplines.


The essence of this proposal deals with increasing the viability of clean energy sources and their storage. Some of the current technologies used to generate energy (such as burning fossil fuels) are inadvertently increasing the level of CO2 and leaving significant carbon footprints. One of NASA’s (e.g. Terra and TIMED) missions is to monitor and study global changes caused either by natural or artificial agents. It is wise to lessen the artificial contribution since the current technologies are unsustainable and the global demand for energy is increasing at an alarming rate. Renewable and clean energy sources (such as solar and wind) provide alternative options. However, both suffer from two major drawbacks: reliability and storage. While data from Terra can be used to locate solar and wind farms to increase reliability, molten salts and fluids have the potential to store energy in the form of heat. The capacity of these materials can be increased by increasing their specific heat capacity and can be competitive in the market in the future. The PI and his undergraduate student are proposing to study fundamental thermodynamic properties of fluids when they are physically confined in nano pores in order to determine whether physical restriction can improve thermal energy storage. This fundamental study is in congruence with NASA’s mission, including training the next generation of scientists, protecting the planet and providing alternative energy solutions.