January 10, 2024

UCLA Samueli Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Carlos Morales-Guio, an assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the agency’s highest honor for faculty members in the early stages of their teaching and research careers.

The award includes a five-year, $680,000 grant to support Morales-Guio’s research in measuring and understanding the reaction-transport kinetics involved in the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) to fuels and chemicals in CO2 electrolyzers. Morales-Guio’s research aims to propel the electrification of the chemical manufacturing industry and foster the production of synthetic fuels for global energy storage.

CO2 electrolyzers powered by electrons generated from wind and solar are key enabling technologies to achieve a zero-emissions future. The research, led by Morales-Guio, explores the pivotal role of copper as catalyst in efficiently producing multi-carbon oxygenate and hydrocarbons during the electrochemical transformation of CO2. Despite copper’s proven efficacy, there is still no consensus on how it catalyzes this transformation. The NSF grant will specifically address the critical need for information on reaction-transport kinetics on copper catalyst systems. Understanding of reaction-transport kinetics is the bottleneck towards CO2 electrolyzer scale up.

The NSF grant will also support the integration of the research results into the training of undergraduate and graduate students at UCLA, and outreach activities with community colleges, minority-serving institutions, national labs, and industries in California.

Morales-Guio teaches the capstone course on chemical process design and analysis at UCLA, as well as an advanced course on electrochemical processes for material science and chemical engineering students. Prior to joining the UCLA faculty in 2018, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford. He earned his bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from Osaka University, and obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Morales-Guio has also received EPFL’s 2017 ABB thesis award, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation, a Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho: MEXT) Scholarship, and is currently a Scialog Fellow in Negative Emission Science.