Battery-Powered Building Unveiled

The University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering on Wednesday named a building after a Chinese battery inventor who has provided more than $13 million in support to the campus in the past year for clean energy research.

Engineering Building II will now be known as Winston Chung Hall. Winston Chung, the founder, chairman and CEO of Winston Global Energy in China, donated a 1.1-megawatt bank of rare earth lithium-ion batteries that were developed by his company and are valued at $2.5 million. The batteries, which were unveiled Wednesday, will power the first floor of the building that bears his name.

Chung is also funding six, $100,000 grants for faculty at the Bourns College of Engineering for research that could significantly improve cell phone, laptop and hybrid vehicle batteries.

That is on top of the $10 million Chung gave to UC Riverside in April. That gift, the largest in campus history from a university, will support two professorships in the Bourns College of Engineering and establish the Winston Chung Global Energy Center at the college’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology. The center will initially focus on bio-inspired technology and the development of clean energy and energy storage.

Reza Abbaschian, dean of the Bourns College of Engineering, said Chung’s storage solutions are a perfect match with the College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) and its Southern California Research Initiative on Solar Energy.

"These gifts are going to make a difference for our students, our faculty and the citizens of California," Abbaschian said.

On Wednesday, Chung was represented by his son, Zhifan Zhong, president of Winston Battery Limited and vice chairman of Winston Global Energy, during a ceremony attended by about 200 people outside Winston Chung Hall.

"Winston Global Energy is very proud to be part of the UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering," said Zhong, who oversees the company’s daily operations of more than 1,300 employees, including the battery manufacturing plant. "This is only a starting point to our shared commitment to clean energy."

The system, the first of its kind in the United States, has the potential to reduce the electric bill for a comparable building by $22,000 per year. The first phase of the battery system will power the first floor of Winston Chung Hall. Eventually, the system will power the entire four-story, 90,000-square-foot building. Excess power will be returned to the grid operated by Riverside Public Utilities.

A photovoltaic solar “farm” being developed will generate power for the campus and charge the batteries in Winston Chung Hall during peak sunlight hours. Non-fossil-fuel burning energy solutions such as solar photovoltaics and wind turbines are limited to daylight hours or times of sufficient wind. The batteries close that loop by providing a way to gather and store that energy.

Chung’s company invests, manufactures and markets energy storage solutions and lithium batteries. He hopes to further advance that work by giving $100,000 for the following projects by UC Riverside professors:

• David Kisailus, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, will perform bioinspired research and development on rare earth lithium iron phosphate batteries to understand the fundamental processes that control the size and shape of these materials to improve reliability and performance of the batteries.

• Alfredo A. Martinez-Morales, managing director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy, plans to explore and demonstrate electrochemically grown lithium iron phosphate nanowires as an effective cathode electrode material for improving the battery energy and power density for lithium ion rechargeable microbatteries.

• Alexander Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering and chair of materials science and engineering, whose research focuses on graphene, a one-atom thick flake of ordinary carbon that has unique electrical and thermal properties, will work on developing graphene-based electrodes, which will help to efficiently remove heat from batteries when they are charging. He will also investigate possible techniques to keep batteries at optimal temperatures for better performance and longer life spans.

• Heejung Jung, an assistant professor mechanical engineering, and Yadong Yin, an associate professor of chemistry, will work to develop nanostructured electrodes that will significantly improve the performance of lithium ion batteries, which have great potential for powering electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles.

• Lorenzo Mangolini, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, plans to develop a manufacturing protocol to build lithium ion batteries with much higher energy storage capacity than the current ones for cell phones and laptops. They could also be used in hybrid vehicles. Today’s commercial lithium ion batteries use graphite flakes as anode material, which limits the performance of the energy storage devices.

• Cengiz Ozkan, a professor of mechanical engineering, and Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical engineering, plan to study carbon nanotube/graphene composites and chemically activated porous carbon sheets loaded with rare earth oxides as electrode materials to meet the demand for higher energy density ultracapacitors and lithium ion batteries.