UW-River Falls alum honored with Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

February 13, 2017--University of Wisconsin-River Falls alumnus Alan  Kruizenga has been named a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for  Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Former President Obama named 102 scientists  and researchers as recipients of the award last month, the highest honor  bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering  professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Kruizenga, ’05, is a principal member of the technical  staff at Sandia National Laboratories - California, where he leads work  investigating materials compatibility, materials selection, and  efficiency-generating technology for solar power systems and advanced reactor  concepts. He was nominated for the award for providing valuable fundamental  understanding of corrosion mechanisms, and associated pioneering data, and for  design and implementation of molten salt and liquid metal-based materials in  high-temperature solar thermal and nuclear systems.

Kruizenga was a critical member of a SunShot research team  focused on investigating liquid metals for use in Dish Stirling thermal solar  systems. A major hurdle to energy efficiency enhancement in Dish Stirling  systems is addressing high temperature materials corrosion from liquid metals.  His work focused on developing an understanding of liquid metals to determine  appropriate techniques to assess corrosion and assist in materials selection  for such systems. Kruizenga sought to understand the complex compatibility  behavior of liquid metals in latent heat energy storage applications. Adding to  this challenge was a very limited set of existing thermodynamic data, and  generally limited knowledge about the practical behavior of these materials in  thermal solar systems. He leveraged both computational modeling and rapid  screening methodologies to provide valuable fundamental understanding of  corrosion mechanisms, leading to pioneering data for design and implementation  of liquid metal-based materials in high temperature solar thermal and nuclear  systems. Ultimately, Kruizenga successfully identified a corrosion-resistant  coating (MgAl2O4) for use in liquid metal thermal energy  storage systems operating at temperatures above 825°C, that also met the  affordability targets for renewable energy systems. 

Ranga Pitchumani, former chief scientist with the  Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, nominated Kruizenga for the award. In  his nomination, Pitchumani said “Alan is off to an impressive start in his  career. Dr. Kruizenga's research directly contributes to the U.S. Department of  Energy's SunShot mission of reducing the costs of solar-generated electricity  to be competitive, without subsidies, with conventional energy sources on the  national electricity grid.”

"I am honored and thrilled to have won a PECASE  award,” said Kruizenga. “Foremost, I believe this validates the important  work that is being done on energy efficiency at Sandia, and in the United  States. Providing long-lasting, efficient, and clean energy is one of the  greatest challenges our generation faces, and I am proud to be able to advance  this work by researching and recommending the materials that will be a key  element of these systems as they enter pilot, and ultimately the market, over  the years to come.”

Kruizenga earned a bachelor's degree in physics from  UW-River Falls, before completing his master's degree in mechanical engineering  and his masters and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and engineering physics at  UW-Madison.

“I'm indebted to the key individuals who supported me as a  first generation college student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls,  especially Professors Lowell McCann and James Madsen,” Kruizenga said.

According to White House administration, “the Presidential Early Career  Awards highlight the key role that the Administration places in encouraging and  accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest  challenges.” This year’s recipients are employed or funded by 13 different  entities, including the Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space  Administration, and Department of Defense. These departments and agencies join  together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers  whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s  preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding  agencies' missions.

The awards were established by President Clinton in 1996 and are coordinated by  the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President.

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