Song Receives 2022 NSF CAREER Award

June 29, 2022

Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (UT PGE) Assistant Professor Wen Song has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the recovery of rare earth elements from clays. The CAREER awards are among the NSF’s most prestigious offerings in support of early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and to lead advances in their institutional and departmental missions.

UT PGE Assistant Professor Wen Song

Song’s research group specializes in understanding the reactive transport of fluids within nanoporous materials that control energy materials recovery. One area of their research focuses on the extraction of rare earth elements (REEs), which are critical components in nearly all technologies that enable the transition toward a low-carbon energy future. This five-year, $510,000 CAREER award will enable Song and her team to explore the fundamental micro- and nanoscale multiphase reactive transport phenomena that control the leaching of REEs from unsaturated, unconsolidated nanoporous clays using seawater as an environmentally benign reagent.

In this project, a suite of novel micro- and nanofluidic imaging platforms will be developed that enable, for the first time, operando visualization of in situ fluid-solid interactions within nanoporous media. Visual data of micro- and nanoscale reactive transport will be quantified and woven into pore-ensemble parameters using reduced-order models to predict and design environmentally benign and effective in situ leaching approaches.

Broader dissemination of the research will include the development of an interactive virtual reality world to engage school-aged children in STEM learning activities. Through sensory play, the learning modules will build a basic intuitive understanding of the scientific principles associated with multiphase reactive transport in nanoconfined porous media. The application will be downloadable onto mobile phones at no cost, and application development will engage local K–12 classrooms in iterative feedback.

Song joined UT PGE in Spring 2019. Her research aims to delineate the fundamental pore-scale transport dynamics that underlie energy resources recovery and environmental remediation. She integrates experimental micro/nanofluidics and materials characterization with fluid mechanics, geochemistry, surface chemistry and thermodynamics theory to develop approaches for effective, economic and sustainable energy materials recovery. She holds a PhD in Energy Resources Engineering from Stanford University, and a Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto.

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