Michelle Sugimoto

Ph.D. Candidate in Materials Science & Engineering at Boston University

 

Hello! I am a solid oxide fuel cell researcher, and I have broad interests in sustainable energy technologies, advocacy for underrepresented groups in higher education, and campus & building sustainability.

Current Research

 

The Technology

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are a fuel flexible energy conversion device (similar to a battery). An oxidant (e.g. air) is supplied to the cathode (black circle) and a fuel (e.g. hydrogen) is supplied to the anode. An electrochemical reaction occurs to supply oxygen ions that travel through the electrolyte and electrons that travel through an external circuit providing electrical power!

SOFCs have many applications including large scale grid installations; individual building use; and road, air, underwater, and space vehicles. 

The Problem

Chromium Poisoning

Long term performance of solid oxide fuel cells is compromised by the diffusion of chromium out of metallic alloy interconnects and its subsequent deposition into the cathode. Cr-rich deposits located at electrochemically active sites (triple phase boundaries for LSM cathodes) hinder the electrochemical reaction that yields electrical power thus degrading cell performance over time.

The Approach

Electrochemical Cleaning Method

I have shown that chromium deposition can be partially reversed by running cells with LSM cathodes in electrolysis mode. This process is enhanced by increasing the vapor pressure of Cr vapor species through elevated temperature and air humidity. 

Improvement in cell performance is observed through improved I-V and EIS curves and a lower Cr signal compared to a poisoned cell using EDS.   

My current research investigates the magnitude of the effects of temperature, current, and humidities on chromium removal.

A Little About Me

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I earned a B.A. in Physics 
from Kalamazoo College in 2017. I was heavily involved in various sustainability groups and efforts around campus, the Physics Society, and the recycling department. I truly enjoyed the liberal arts experience having the ability to take classes outside of my major like American Environmental History and Chinese Food Culture, that still influence my outlook and understanding of life, work, and my passion for sustainability.

I spent the summer of 2016 participating in an REU program in the Materials Science Department at the University of Texas Dallas. In Prof. Yves Chabal's lab, I investigated a low-temperature, metallic surface state of thin-film ZnO using infrared spectroscopy. As part of the program, we also learned about research ethics, tips for success, and industry standards during professional development seminars and company visits. In our free time, my ten member cohort also worked on our rock climbing skills!

I entered BU's Materials Science & Engineering Ph.D. program Fall 2017. I currently conduct fuel cell research in Uday B. Pal's group.

 

I have also been busy developing and managing a peer mentorship program within my Division that is entering into its second year!

 

I was a LEED Simulation Auditor during my Junior and Senior years at Kalamazoo College. I worked closely with the Project Manager and Architect of the new fitness building on campus to assess its sustainability. Our report followed the guidelines of LEED, an internationally recognized building sustainability standard, which considers a variety of factors such as energy & water use, construction recycling & waste, and life cycle impacts of building materials.

Through the project, I gained extensive knowledge of LEED v4. I also researched two other prominent standards, the Living Building Challenge and Green Globes, in order to develop a custom sustainability standard tailored to the specifics of Kalamazoo College,.

In the Fall of 2018, I helped revive the Materials Research Society student chapter at BU. The goal of our group is to provide opportunities for professional development to the BU materials science community. We also strive to strengthen that community as our members are spread far across campus and disciplines within materials science.

Previously, we've held events including a panel for international students looking to work in the U.S. after graduation, dinner and conversation with a materials scientist, and a liquid nitrogen ice cream social!

I serve as the Diversity Chair for the New England Graduate Womxn in Science and Engineering. We are a group that advocates for womxn and other traditionally underrepresented groups in graduate STEM programs across New England. Our main goals are to improve communication and collaboration between university level GWiSE chapters, help schools form new GWiSE groups, advocate for changes at the university level, and provide larger professional development and networking events for all affiliate GWiSE groups. 

This past year, my main accomplishments included helping plan two full-day conferences on the topics of diversity, inclusion, and equity. I improved communication with diversity and inclusion student groups and offices at member institutions for future collaborations. I also developed a guideline of best practices to improve inclusion and accessibility of our group, programming, and online presence.

 

Contact Me

(616) 334-6536

 

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