Time and Treasure: Yanhai Du, Ph.D. Remained Productive During the Pandemic
Yanhai Du, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, remained productive during the 2020 - 2021 academic year. In addition to the seven courses he taught, he received six grant awards totaling $707,346 in external funding, published six papers, and supervised and mentored 5 researchers at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels.
Dr. Du is a material scientist and is an internationally recognized scholar in solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) research and development. Currently, Dr. Du directs the research activities of the Fuel Cell Laboratory and Metal Additive Manufacturing Laboratory at Kent State University. During his 20 years in this field, he has acquired extensive insight into the development and manufacture of SOFC technology.
“Although I am a material scientist by training and an engineer by profession, I am truly a teacher at heart. Over the past 30 years, I have taken my technical skills and applied them to research, technology development and production to address the environmental, societal, and economic challenges of energy consumption,” Du said. “Due to the nature of my work, I was given the opportunity to teach and mentor junior engineers and researchers. After a diverse work career spanning a host of countries, I have come to treasure working with students in an academic setting.”
Dr. Du has spent the last 10 years dedicated to academia where he has established himself as a world-class researcher, as well as a sought after professor who not only has developed a highly popular university course but has consistently earned high praise from his students as an effective educator in the classroom and as a mentor out of the classroom. Dr. Du consistently makes his students the center of his priorities. His student-first teaching philosophy attracts and inspires a wide variety of the next generation of professionals.
As an educator, Dr. Du has mentored a diverse number of scientists and students, including postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students, and even high school students. His expansive research interests range from fuel cells, energy conversion and storage, to additive manufacturing and sustainable systems, and he encourages students to work with him at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels.
Du said, “Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Indeed, the reward from empowering groups of young men and women with vision, knowledge, and opportunities to positively impact society is much greater than any recognition or achievement I could ever receive.”
In addition to teaching and mentoring, currently, Dr. Du is the principal investigator leading a project exploring a hybrid fuel cell-battery-capacitor power source for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) under the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN). The objective approach is to hybridize advanced fuel cells, modern batteries and high-power density capacitors to maximize the on-board power density and to extend the flight time of the UASs. The hybrid power system utilizes a fuel cell to provide a constant average power for cruising, while peak power is supplied by a battery and a capacitor bank in addition to the fuel cell.
UAS are an emerging sector of the aerospace industry with rapidly accelerating market demand and growth. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are the predominant segment of the UAS market, which has seen multi-billion-dollar sales with more than 10% annual growth. Given this large market opportunity, the Air Force, NASA and other federal agencies, as well as commercial sectors are all seeking ways to advance UAS/UAV technologies. One of the major gaps that exist between the needs of the UAS/UAV market and currently available technology is that of an adequate on-board power source to support the robust technical features and operational constraints of UAS, particularly UAVs. For more information about this project, please visit: https://ohiofrn.org
Although Dr. Du’s personal proudest accomplishments are reflected in his students, his reputation as a leading researcher in SOFC technology has earned several prestigious accolades, including being invited as a panelist for grant proposal reviews for National Science Foundation and European Union and as an ad-hoc reviewer for over 30 international journals, including the journal “Nature”. Additional accomplishments include, but are not limited to, being named Scholar of the Month in January 2014 and featured in the Fuel Cell Corridor in February 2014 and August 2015. His fuel cell research has also been featured in four Kent State public information announcements (2016), the Record-Courier in March 2016, and Kent State Research Magazine in Spring 2018. In 2018, he received Kent State University’s prestigious President’s Faculty Excellence Award, and in 2019, he was recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Aeronautics and Engineering.
Dr. Du’s time with the College of Aeronautics and Engineering is truly a treasure.
The College of Aeronautics and Engineering embraces a unique synergy of aeronautics, engineering, and technologies. Our commitment is to provide a dynamic educational experience that fosters experiential learning. CAE offers nationally accredited aeronautics and engineering programs that provide students with personal development opportunities that align with professional passions. We cultivate a culture of care that emphasizes the importance of academic achievement and personal growth. For more information, please visit https://www.kent.edu/cae