Grad Student Wins Young Author Prize

July 12, 2019 - Mounika Kodali, a graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been awarded the Oronzio and Niccolò De Nora Foundation Young Author Prize from the International Society of Electrochemistry. This award is given annually to a scientist younger than 30 years old for the best paper published the previous year in the ISE journal.

Kodali is working toward her doctorate under the advisement of Plamen Atanassov, a Chancellor’s Professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering. In her paper, she investigated enhancing the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) by introducing several catalyst materials.

The reduction of natural resources over the centuries has created a dire need for more reliable, low-cost and efficient energy-harvesting technologies that utilize renewable energy sources. MFCs are bioelectrochemical systems that can treat wastewater while simultaneously generating electricity. This cogenerative configuration could theoretically replace existing energy-intensive wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the performance of MFCs is limited by several factors that hinder their large-scale application.

“We know that one of the main factors limiting the power output of MFCs is the oxygen reduction reaction in the cathode,” explains Kodali. “We examined the performance of three catalyst materials -- Fe-AAPyr (iron-amino antipyrine), GNS (graphene nanosheets) and AC (activated carbon) – individually and integrated, for an oxygen-reduction reaction that could improve MFC performance.

“I am so happy and excited to receive such an honorable award for my research, and I am so grateful for my adviser Plamen Atanassov and my mentor Carlo Santoro for the continuous support and encouragement and for helping me throughout my journey,” said Kodali, who will receive the prize at the 2020 ISE annual meeting in Belgrade, Serbia.

– Lori Brandt

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