Meet Berkeley Lab's Current Rosenfeld Fellows

May 29th 2019

From left, Mary Ann Piette, Akanksha Menon, Arkadeep Kumar and Ashok Gadgil at the 2019 Rosenfeld Symposium

Two researchers are working at the forefront of water-energy technologies as 2018 Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellows at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Akanksha Menon and Arkadeep Kumar joined Berkeley Lab's Energy Technologies Area last year for two-year terms as part of the fellowship, which is awarded to outstanding recent Ph.D. recipients. Both are doing work that honors Arthur H. Rosenfeld's legacy in advancing energy efficiency, with a special focus in this round on the intersection between energy and water.

Akanksha MenonMenon, who received a mechanical engineering Ph.D. from Georgia Tech,  is working on an energy-efficient desalination system for wastewater from oil and gas operations. The Department of Energy project uses thermally responsive materials and solar energy as heat to produce pure water. She was drawn to the project, she said, because of its potential impact and the focus on renewable energy for desalination.

"The added benefit is that there are three co-principal investigators, so I get to interact with and learn from people with different expertise, and we work with a company that will field test the technology we develop," Menon said. "So this project has all the ingredients I could ask for to have a productive postdoctoral experience."

Kumar, who also received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, is focused on energy-efficient methods of removing contaminants such as arsenic and chromium from drinking water by electrochemical methods. In addition, he is working on energy-efficient desalination for low-salinity brackish waters using affordable ion-exchange resins.

"I was attracted to this fellowship by the mission of bringing innovative research to solve society's most urgent environmental problems—which include energy and water," Kumar said.

Kumar conducts experiments at the Molecular Foundry to determine the crystal structure of materials (iron oxides) for removing contaminants such as arsenic for safe drinking water.Water research efforts are widely spread across Berkeley Lab, prompting Menon and former Rosenfeld fellow Chinmayee Subban to start a monthly "lunch and learn" meeting called Water Wednesdays.

"Through Water Wednesdays, I've been able to learn about all the great work happening here and believe that we are positioning ourselves to lead research at the water-energy nexus," Menon said.

Both Kumar and Menon express interest in combining their research interests with teaching and mentoring after the fellowship concludes.

"My goal beyond the fellowship is to work on breakthrough and impactful scientific solutions," Kumar said.

The fellowship is made possible through a gift from the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan (ITRI).

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