Category Archives: Lab Updates

Dr. Jason Gillmore

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Jason Gillmore will be joining our group.  He is a Professor of Chemistry at Hope College.

From the Hope College website…

Jason Gillmore joined the faculty at Hope in July 2004. Tenured and promoted in 2010 and promoted again in 2016, Professor Gillmore has also been a Schaap Research Fellow since 2013. Professor Gillmore is on sabbatical for the 2018–19 acadmic year, dividing his time between his own laboratory at Hope College and the MSU Bioeconomy Institute and its Organic Energy Storage Lab.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Jason maintains a research group of three to six undergraduate students in the summer and throughout the academic year. His research interests include organic photochemistry and electrochemistry, photochromism, photoinduced charge transfer, photoresponsive materials, computation and heteroaromatic synthesis.

Dr. Gillmore will be taking his sabbatical with our group during the 2018/19 school year.  We are very pleased to have him join us and we look forward to his time and his contributions.

Lab Bench to Pilot Plant Workshop

Our summer program has begun with the excellent Lab Bench to Pilot Plant Workshop that our MSU plant staff present every year.  Two of our interns were able to participate this year…

This week we have kicked off the summer research portion of our program.  Bridget, Brittney and Nora have begun their research and Anthony will join us on June 4.  With everyone’s various schedules I am having a very hard time getting a group picture, but stay tuned!

Tom Guarr Selected for DOE Chain Reactions Innovations Program

Tom Guarr Selected for DOE Chain Reactions Innovations Program

Tom Guarr in lab

Future alternative energy success is highly dependent on the ability to store that energy once captured. Tom Guarr, co-founder of Jolt Energy Storage Technologies LLC, and researcher at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, Michigan, is pioneering new technology for that purpose.

After applying for a new program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy last year, Guarr was notified in March 2018 that he has been selected through a national competition process to participate in the “Chain Reaction Innovations Program” at Argonne National Laboratory. This program will allow him to further extend his battery storage research and bring his licensed MSU technology to market.

Watch a quick video about Tom’s lab.

Recognizing that bringing important breakthroughs into the marketplace includes overcoming many technical and financial hurdles, the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) recently launched “Chain Reaction Innovations” (CRI) to help innovators obtain and refine the entrepreneurship skills needed to develop and commercialize advances in cleantech and manufacturing.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) will administer this program for EERE.

Guarr stated, “I’m looking forward to continuing my research at Argonne and bringing back new capabilities and research opportunities to MSU.” He begins his work at Argonne this month.

The competition began in 2017, when the field of 83 applicants from entrepreneurs across the country was narrowed to 21 semifinalists through a process that included a technical evaluation and phone interview. The semifinalists then participated in a “Shark Tank” type of competition at ANL in January 2018, where the top 10 candidates where chosen for another round of competition.

Jolt Energy Storage Technologies, LLC, led by Guarr along with partner Jack Johnson, has licensed several pieces of intellectual property from MSU that relate to the use of organic compounds in batteries. The relevant technology was developed in the Organic Energy Storage Laboratory at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute.

The licensed technology focuses on additives to improve the safety and efficiency of lithium ion batteries (so a cell phone won’t overheat for instance). It offers the possibility of extending the same chemistry to make organic batteries that are inexpensive, efficient, and environmentally friendly. These devices are termed “redox flow batteries” and are aimed at large-scale energy storage applications. Because energy from renewable sources like wind and solar tends to be intermittent, reliable energy storage at the grid level is critically needed in order to provide smooth power output as an increasing amount of energy from such sources is brought online. With technology licensed from MSU, Jolt is developing storage systems that are safe, reliable, and inexpensive enough to make the overall economics attractive.

Lakeshore Advantage, a local non-profit economic development organization, has supported Jolt since their earliest stages of development. The organization assisted Jolt in securing funds through a Business Accelerator Fund grant, a resource available through the Holland SmartZone, to test their solution that improves safety, cost and performance in lithium ion batteries.

“Jolt’s success is a testament to their leadership, collaboration and thoughtful approach to solving an advanced energy storage problem and disrupting the industry along the way,” said Angela Huesman, Chief Operating Officer at Lakeshore Advantage, “We look forward to what’s next for this first MSU Bioeconomy spinout through the Argonne National Labs opportunity, with expectations that this experience will catapult Jolt to its next milestone.”

Read the full press release from Argonne National Lab.

Argonne selects innovators from across nation to grow startups…

Big news!!!  Dr. Tom Guarr has been awarded a spot in an elite national program at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory to grow startup technologies.  The Chain Reactions Innovation program at Argonne is a two year Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program which provides an institutional home for innovative postdoctoral researchers to build their research into products.

Congratulations Tom!  We look forward to seeing how your research and Jolt develops products that will improve our world.


Amber Dood and Nick Mortimer

Amber and Nick collaborated on a poster for presenting at the Schaap Symposium…

High Potential Organic Redox Shuttles for Overcharge Protection in Lithium Ion Batteries;  Amber J. Prins, Nicholas J. Mortimer and Thomas F. Guarr*

Lithium ion batteries are universally used today, but unsafe conditions can occur if expensive electronics are not used to prevent overcharging. These electronics can double the price of the battery pack, so it is important to find a more economical way to control charging. “Redox shuttles” are potential additives to batteries to shunt the excess current and allow the battery to be safely used to its full capacity. When overcharge current flows through a battery, the redox shuttle is oxidized to form the radical cation which diffuses across the cell and is reduced at the anode. This effectively turns overcharge current into thermal energy which can be readily controlled, thereby preventing battery degradation. Numerous organic compounds have been investigated as shuttle candidates, but finding materials that possess the following qualities proves challenging: 1) high oxidation potential (generally > 4.2 V vs. Li/Li +); 2) solubility in battery electrolytes; 3) compatibility with other electrolyte components; 4) high stability in both reduced and oxidized forms (leading to long cycle life).

This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland area, as well as through financial support from a Michigan Strategic Fund grant through Lakeshore Advantage to MSU.

Tom Guarr also presented similar posters at the 68th Annual International Society of Electrochemistry in Providence, RI on August 30 and at the 232nd Electrochemical Society meeting in National Harbor, MD on October 5, 2017.

Shane Mann

Shane joined us in January this year from Central Michigan University.  He has been researching and synthesizing full time for us ever since.

Multifunctional pyridinium systems for non-aqueous redox flow batteries;  Shane Mann, Nick Mortimer, Anthony Petty II, Jessica Scott, Dr. Tom Guarr*

Long-term, reliable energy storage on an industrial scale requires a battery system that is both incredibly cost efficient while also exceptionally simple to maintain over time. A proposed solution to large-scale energy storage is to reduce the cost and environmental impact of grid storage through the use of sustainable electrochemically active organic compounds.

The development of stable catholyte and anolyte materials for organic redox flow batteries (ORFB) minimizes the proliferation of toxic transition metal compounds, while simultaneously affording added assurance to nearby population centers in the event of any spill or leak. In order to maximize power output and meet modern electrical demands, we have developed a series of multi-electron, quinoidal systems. Using substituted polycyclic heterocycles such as phenothiazines or carbazoles in conjunction with extended bispyridinium anolytes, practical ORFBs have been developed.

Great work Shane, keep on developing new compounds and keeping us busy.

Korey Cook

Korey started at MSUBI early in 2017.  He is a man of many talents and interests.  He was the  lone engineer in the lab this summer and managed to create a working redox flow battery prototype system.  Outside of our lab, he came very close to installing a working river turbine in the Grand River and got engaged to his girlfriend this summer.

Research and Development of a Highly Efficient and Cost Effective Redox Flow Battery; Korey Cook, Dr. Tom Guarr, Shane Mann and Brian Chiou

Renewable energy generation technology is growing rapidly and increasingly relies on energy storage systems to balance fluctuating energy demand.  The high manufacturing cost and limited life cycle of current commercial battery technologies inhibits large-scale grid storage.  This research project focused on creating an organic redox flow battery prototype that demonstrates significantly lower manufacturing cost and minimal electrolyte degradation to increase total charge cycles.  The developed prototype system includes electrolyte tanks, pumps, and a reactor that continuously and evenly distributes electrolyte solutions across an ion exchange membrane.  This battery system demonstrates a flow battery that can be scaled for long-term energy storage.

Korey is a Mechanical Engineer from Hope College, class of 2016.  This fall, he will continue to work with us, and he will begin his MS in Engineering program at Michigan State University with Tom Guarr and Andre Benard as his advisors.  We are very excited to watch him continue his work developing new-generation redox flow batteries.

Anthony Porath

Anthony is an undergraduate at Alma College.  He is a Chemistry major with emphasis in Organic Synthesis.

Synthesis of Tri-functional Pyridinium Compounds for Electrochemical Applications; Anthony Porath, Dr. Thomas Guarr

Quaternary salts of tri-functional pyridinium compounds could offer small, multi-electron organic components to be used in electrochemical processes. Not many organic molecules of this type are in common use. The methyl and hydrogen substituted versions have been successfully prepared utilizing Suzuki coupling. The phenyl substituted variety is in progress using a pyrylium intermediate. Future work will involve inserting a p-phenylene bridge between the pyridine and the central ring, and working on hexa-functional pyridinium complexes.

Anthony worked very hard in our lab this summer.  He has a bright future ahead.  He will graduate from Alma College next spring and move on to great things.  Remember to keep in touch and let us know what your future holds.

Rachel Beltman

A graduate of University of Detroit Mercy, with a degree in Biochemistry, Rachel synthesized many compounds for us this summer.

Extended Bispyridines: an Approach to Molecular Wires; Rachel Beltman and Dr. Thomas Guarr

Recently, redox flow batteries (RFBs) have been intensively researched for grid-level energy storage applications. In addition to offering an inexpensive option for long term storage, this technology also provides a means to achieve the load leveling required to effectively utilize renewable sources of energy. Bispyridinium compounds are of interest in RFBs because they offer reasonable voltages, good stability, and relatively high energy densities. We have developed a series of extended bispyridinium systems that incorporate p-phenylene (or longer) bridges can also be used as anolyte materials.

The extension of the π system in such compounds allows for an increase in cell voltage, along with a corresponding improvement in energy density. Stability is also improved because the ability to accept two electrons and achieve a stable, closed shell reduced state helps to avoid the buildup of less stable radical intermediates. In this study, the effects of substituent choice and bridge length on cell potential, molecular weight, durability, and ease of synthesis are explored.

Rachel has proven herself to be quite talented at organic synthesis, and she is continuing her studies at Wayne State this fall to pursue a doctorate in Organic Chemistry.  We appreciate all of your contributions this summer, Rachel.  Enjoy your time at Wayne State.