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Postdoctoral Fellow in Small Organic Molecule Synthetic Chemistry for Grid-Scale Electrical Energy Storage

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Title Postdoctoral Fellow in Small Organic Molecule Synthetic Chemistry for Grid-Scale Electrical Energy Storage
School Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Department/Area Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering
Position Description

A postdoctoral fellow position is available for the synthesis and testing of redox-active small organic molecules for electrical energy storage, such as the electrochemical couples used in the flow batteries described in 1-3. The position is for one year and may be extended for a second year if performance justifies continued funding.

The cost of wind and photovoltaic (PV) electricity have dropped so rapidly that their intermittency is the greatest remaining technical obstacle to getting the vast majority of our electricity from these safe, renewable sources. Grid-scale storage could solve this problem, but currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem.

The advantages of liquid flow batteries are giving them increased attention for grid-scale electrical storage. Conventional solid electrode batteries can maintain peak discharge power for less than an hour before being drained, whereas several hours to days are required to match variable sources like wind and PV with the fluctuating demand for electricity. In a flow battery, the discharge time may be made as long as needed by increasing the size of the storage tanks for the liquid reactants and products. Liquid flow batteries can also last for many more cycles than solid batteries, whose electrodes degrade after a limited number of cycles.

With Harvard’s new approach to aqueous flow battery chemistry, electrical energy is stored through electrochemical redox reactions of small organic molecules, and returned to the grid through the reversal of these reactions. This particular approach has advantages over other flow battery chemistries, including high power density, inexpensive chemicals, energy storage in the form of safer liquids, and inexpensive components. The novelty of the aqueous organic redox approach creates great opportunities for improvement of performance by the design and synthesis of new organic molecules.

This research project is an internal collaboration between the experimental chemistry group of Prof. Roy Gordon of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the materials group of Prof. Michael Aziz in SEAS, and the theoretical chemistry group of Prof. Alan Aspuru-Guzik in CCB. They also work with external collaborators who synthesize membranes of selective permeability to work well in conjunction with Harvard’s redox-active molecules. In the Gordon lab the researcher who takes this position will synthesize molecules predicted by the Aspuru-Guzik group to be advantageous when operating with membranes under development by the external collaborators, and will characterize them in collaboration with others in the Gordon and Aziz laboratories. S/he will also contribute to the fabrication and performance evaluation of laboratory scale flow cells comprising these molecules and membranes synthesized by external collaborators.

1 B. Huskinson, M.P. Marshak, C. Suh, S. Er, M.R. Gerhardt, C.J. Galvin, X. Chen, A. Aspuru-Guzik, R.G. Gordon and M.J. Aziz, “A metal-free organic-inorganic aqueous flow battery”, Nature 505, 195 (2014), or

2 K. Lin, Q. Chen, M.R. Gerhardt, L. Tong, S.B. Kim, L. Eisenach, A.W. Valle, D. Hardee, R.G. Gordon, M.J. Aziz and M.P. Marshak, “Alkaline Quinone Flow Battery”, Science 349, 1529 (2015), or

3 K. Lin, R. Gómez-Bombarelli, E.S. Beh, L. Tong, Q. Chen, A.W. Valle, A. Aspuru-Guzik, M.J. Aziz, and R.G. Gordon, “A redox flow battery with an alloxazine-based organic electrolyte”, Nature Energy 1, 16102 (2016).

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Basic Qualifications

Doctorate or terminal degree in Chemistry, Electrochemistry, or a related field must be completed by the expected start date.

Additional Qualifications

- Demonstrated strong skills in organic synthesis
- Some familiarity with large-scale industrial chemistry
- Pragmatism in meeting project deadlines
- Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with others
- Availability to begin the position by June 2017

Special Instructions

Interested candidates should provide a C.V. including a list of publications, two representative publications, and contact information for at least two professional references

Contact Information

Joel Veak
Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
29 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Contact Email
Equal Opportunity Employer

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Minimum Number of References Required 2
Maximum Number of References Allowed 4

Supplemental Questions

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

Applicant Documents

Required Documents
  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Cover Letter
  3. Publication
  4. Publication 2
Optional Documents