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NREL Scientists Recognized for Contributions to Coating Science and Technology


Two National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists were recognized at this year’s International Society of Coating Science and Technology (ISCST) Symposium for their contributions to coating science and technology.

Scott Mauger, a scientist in the Thin Film and Manufacturing Science Group within the Materials Science Center, received the L.E. Scriven Young Investigator Award, a prestigious recognition awarded to early-career researchers for outstanding achievements in continuous liquid film coating science and technology. Michael Ulsh, then acting group manager for Process Science and Engineering, received the Outstanding Service Award for his work in organizing and chairing the symposium.

Mauger received the Scriven Young Investigator Award for his work on developing inks and coating processes to enable fuel cells and electrolyzers to be manufactured at scale.

“When I started working on fuel cells at NREL in 2016, I was one of the few working on coating process science. And now it’s grown into several projects,” Mauger said. “This award is a nice recognition of all the work I and many others have done over the years to get to this point.”

Making fuel cells involves taking polymers and particles in a liquid phase—a liquid-based dispersion—and coating it onto a flexible substrate. To enable efficient scale-up, Mauger and his colleagues focus on the formulation of the liquid dispersion and how the components interact, as well as the coating process.

“The work we do centers on how you make that liquid dispersion and how you can take that liquid phase and make it into a thin film,” Mauger said. “But the general theme is always: How do we take things from the lab scale to something that can be commercialized?”

Mauger’s work on fuel cell and electrolyzer manufacturing is key to bringing these technologies to market, where they can be broadly deployed and achieve the greatest impact. But this work is not always easy.

“Scale-up is not always straightforward. When you make one fuel cell in a lab, you can be very inefficient, but that’s not true at scale,” Mauger explained. “We work a lot with industrial partners to enable the transition from lab scale to large scale.”

Ulsh, who received the Outstanding Service Award, fittingly played a key role in setting Mauger up for success in his career. When Mauger first joined NREL in 2013, he quickly found his way to Ulsh’s team.

“One of the things that enabled me to be successful in this work was having people who wanted to help me,” Mauger said. “Having a group of people who were willing to teach me and get me to the point where I could then lead my own work has been really important.”

In addition to mentoring young researchers in the process science and manufacturing space at NREL, Ulsh has played an active role in the International Society of Coating Science and Technology.

“ISCST is the premier organization in the world that focuses on the science of liquid coating and drying, so it’s an excellent technical community for NREL researchers like Scott and I to be involved in,” Ulsh said. “Four years ago, a colleague—who we now work with—invited me to be the co-chair of the next biannual meeting. I have to say that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but it’s certainly been a worthwhile experience.”

“I also want to note that Scott’s receipt of the L.E. Scriven award says volumes about his personal accomplishments and growth in the field,” Ulsh continued. “This award almost always goes to academic or industry recipients, so it’s an outstanding achievement for an NREL scientist to receive it.”

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