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Thursday, September 3, 2015

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UMD Study Finds Connecting Uninsured Patients to Primary Care Could Reduce ER Use

May 6, 2015
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Hillery Tsumba 301-628-3425

Montgomery County, Md. Initiative Could Improve Health, Reduce Costs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An intervention to connect low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to a reliable source of primary health care shows promise for reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments in Maryland. A University of Maryland School of Public Health study evaluating the results of the intervention was published this week in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs

For twenty years, use of hospital emergency departments has been on the rise in the United States, particularly among low-income patients who face barriers to accessing health care outside of hospitals, including not having an identifiable primary health care provider. Almost half of emergency room visits are considered “avoidable.” The Emergency Department-Primary Care Connect Initiative of the Primary Care Coalition, which ran from 2009 through 2011, linked low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to safety-net health clinics. 

“Our study found that uninsured patients with chronic health issues – such as those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, depression or anxiety – relied less on the emergency department after they were linked to a local health clinic for ongoing care,” says Dr. Karoline Mortensen, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior researcher. “Connecting patients to primary care and expanding the availability of these safety-net clinics could reduce emergency department visits and provide better continuity of care for vulnerable populations.”  

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the initiative engaged all five of the hospitals operating in Montgomery County, Maryland at the time, and four safety-net clinics serving low-income patients. Using “patient navigators,” individuals trained to help patients find the care they need and can afford, these hospitals referred more than 10,000 low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients who visited emergency departments to four local primary care clinics, with the goal of encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the clinic and reduce their reliance on costly emergency department care. 

Two hospitals in Montgomery County who participated in the intervention continued the program after the initial grant period concluded because of the benefits they saw for patients and for reducing emergency department visits and associated costs. These hospitals are currently testing a new version of the intervention specifically deigned to link emergency department patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate community-based services. 

While hospital administrators and health policy experts throughout the country are recognizing that access to primary care improves continuity of care for patients and reduces avoidable use of emergency departments, the implications of this project are particularly important for hospitals in Maryland, which are now operating under a unique all-payer model for hospital payments. Within this new payment structure, Maryland hospitals will have to meet ambitious spending, quality of care, and population health goals. Reducing avoidable use of emergency departments can help in reaching these goals.

The project provides promise not only for hospitals in Maryland but throughout the nation to improve health care experiences and outcomes for their patients. Shared learning systems were an integral component of the project so participants were learning from each other and sharing best practices throughout the project and that learning has now been documented and can be replicated in other communities.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project to work on,” says Barbara H. Eldridge, Manager of Quality Improvement at the Primary Care Coalition. “We created a learning system that permits us to sustain improved communication between patients and their providers, between hospital discharge planners and community based clinics, and across five hospitals operating in Montgomery County.” The initiative has proven successful in Montgomery County, Maryland and is being replicated in communities in other parts of the country. 

“Linking Uninsured Patients Treated In The Emergency Department To Primary Care Shows Some Promise In Maryland” was written by Theresa Y. Kim, Karoline Mortensen, and Barbara Eldridge and published in the journal Health Affairs

University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012
Contacts: 

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

UMD Study Finds that After Weighing Options, a Majority of Americans Approve Iran Nuclear Deal

September 2, 2015
Contacts: 

Jonas Siegel, University of Maryland, 301-405-4020  
Rich Robinson, Voice Of the People, 202-232-5075

National Citizen Advisory Panel expresses concerns over terms of the deal,
but no alternative seen as better 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  – A new University of Maryland study finds that a majority of a national citizen advisory panel, made up of a representative sample of American registered voters, recommends Congress approve the deal recently negotiated between Iran, the United States and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (plus Germany) on Iran’s nuclear program. The study was conducted by the university’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM).

After assessing strong critiques of the terms of the deal – including rebuttals – and then evaluating the pros and cons of alternatives, 55 percent concluded that Congress should approve the agreement, despite serious concerns about some of its details. Twenty-three percent recommended ratcheting up sanctions instead, 14 percent favored renewing negotiations to get better terms, and 7 percent recommended threatening Iran with military strikes unless they agree to better terms. 

The survey found 72 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents recommended approval of the deal. This represents a significant rise in Democratic support for an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities and increases inspections in return for limited sanctions relief (up from 65 percent in July, 2014) and a more pronounced shift among independents (up from 51 percent).

In contrast to previous consultations conducted during the negotiations, Republicans departed substantially from the majority position. Just 33 percent of Republican panelists recommended approval of the deal (down from 62 percent who preferred negotiating an agreement a year ago). However, there was no consensus among Republicans about an alternative: 36 percent recommended ramping up sanctions, while 20 percent recommended trying to renegotiate and get a better deal. Nine percent recommended threatening to use military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

The online advisory panel, called the ‘Citizen Cabinet’, first went through an in-depth process, called a ‘policymaking simulation,’ which was developed in consultation with Congressional staffers and other experts to assure accuracy and balance. After panelists were given a briefing on the background and terms of the deal, they evaluated a series of strongly stated critiques of the deal with rebuttals to those critiques. Majorities found each of the critiques and the rebuttals at least somewhat convincing. The fact that large majorities found these critiques convincing indicates serious concern among voters about key details of the deal, but in the end, majorities see failure to approve the deal as a greater concern. 

Alternatives to the deal were presented, including arguments for and against. Here too, the arguments on both sides were found convincing by majorities, but none of the alternatives performed as well as the option of approving the deal. 

The alternative most widely promoted by Congressional opponents, to reopen negotiations, was recommend by just 14 percent. Overall 54 percent thought it was unlikely that other permanent members of the UN Security Council would cooperate with such an effort, while 79 percent thought it was unlikely that Iran would return to negotiations and make more concessions. 

The alternative of ramping up sanctions on Iran and other countries that do business with Iran until Iran gives up its nuclear enrichment program and allows anytime/anywhere inspections did a bit better, with 23 percent recommending it. Support for this option reflected optimism that other countries would agree not to do business with Iran if Congress disapproved the deal.

The alternative of threatening military strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites was recommended by just 7 percent. Eighty-one percent thought that such threats would not likely be effective. 

“There is a lot of concern about key terms of the deal, especially the limits on inspections and the release of frozen funds to Iran,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “Standard polls are reflecting these concerns, but when voters think through the issue, they conclude taking the deal is better than any of the alternatives.” 

The study was sponsored by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, which also participated in survey development, and by Voice Of the People, which promotes the development of Citizen Cabinets to give the people a greater voice in policymaking. 

The entire survey instrument is now posted at www.VOP.org to allow anyone to go through the same ‘policymaking simulation’ the representative panel went through, get briefed on the issue, hear the best arguments from all sides, and share their views directly with members of Congress.

The survey of a probability-based representative sample of 702 registered voters was conducted August 17-20. Panelists were recruited to participate in the Citizen Cabinet by Nielsen Scarborough from its larger national panel recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households.

A report on the survey’s results, “Assessing the Iran Deal,” can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Assessing_the_Iran_Deal_Report...

The questionnaire for the survey can be found at: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Assessing_the_Iran_Deal_Quaire...

Related studies of American and Iranian public attitudes toward the nuclear negotiations can be found at: http://www.cissm.umd.edu/projects/program-public-consultation

UMD Study Links Climate Policy to Extinction Trends

September 1, 2015
Contacts: 

Andrew Roberts 301-405-2171

New research explores how climate change policies may reduce extinctions
through their impact on how land is used

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A new study by the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences assessed the potential impact of future land-use scenarios, including climate change mitigation, on the loss of habitable areas in “biodiversity hotspots”—distinct biogeographic regions with extremely high numbers of endemic species. 

The study, led by Ph.D. student Samuel Jantz and published in the journal Conservation Biology, estimated the loss of natural vegetative cover under four different climate change policy scenarios based on data provided in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and generated extinction estimates by cross-referencing areas of vegetative loss with the biodiversity hotspots.

“Studies have shown that actions need to be taken to avoid extinctions driven by climate change; however, the impact of land-use decisions associated with climate policy have not received much attention. Our study demonstrates that land-use needs to be considered when formulating climate policies to both avoid climate change and preserve areas rich in biodiversity,” Jantz said.

Relative to current estimates of the extent of natural vegetation, the study finds that natural vegetative cover in biodiversity hotspots could be reduced by an additional 26-58 percent, depending on climate policy, and could result in hundreds to thousands of additional extinctions by 2100. The study concludes that future extinctions could potentially be reduced by incorporating habitat preservation into scenario development to reduce projected future land-use changes in hotspots, or by lessening the impact of future land-use activities on biodiversity within hotspots.

“How societies will meet growing demands for food and fiber while simultaneously working to mitigate climate change may critically affect biodiversity by increasing land-use activities in sensitive areas,” said UMD Professor George Hurtt, whose graduate-level class on land cover land-use change inspired the work. “Interestingly, the study finds that climate mitigation and biodiversity protection are generally aligned, with increased efforts at climate mitigation corresponding to reduced rates of future habitat and biodiversity loss in three-fourths of the cases evaluated.”

This study also includes fellow UMD Ph.D. students Qiongyu Huang and Rachel Moore; Faculty Research Assistants Brian Barker and Jacob Noel; Assistant Research Professor Louise Chini, Professor Hurtt; and international expert Dr. Thomas Brooks of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

“Our study is an example of the benefits that can come from involving students in research. What originally began as a class project developed into a manuscript published in a great journal,” Jantz said.

University of Maryland Implements New Campus-Wide Addressing System

August 31, 2015
Contacts: 

Graham Binder 301-405-4076

Locatable street address assigned to all UMD-owned properties 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland unveiled today a long-awaited, highly-anticipated addressing initiative. The initiative assigns a locatable street address to on-campus buildings and all off-campus UMD-owned properties in College Park. 

The addressing initiative was undertaken to enhance the public safety experience for the University community by way of improved emergency service response times. Currently, 911 emergencies are dispatched using building names and numbers familiar only to local public safety agencies. With the addition of an assigned street address, agencies outside of the University are now able to respond with increased speed and efficiency. 

The University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD) has asked that everyone learn their street address and use it in times of an emergency. 

The following guidelines have been put in place to help students, staff and faculty learn and use their new street address:

  • When addressing mail, add the new street address along with the department name and building name. Although mailing address requirements will not change, it will be one way to engrain the new street address.
  • Update respective websites with the new street address. 
  • Update stationery and business cards with the new street address when new orders are submitted.

“The new addressing initiative will significantly enhance public safety for our students, faculty and staff.  First responders will now be able to arrive on the scene with increased speed and efficiency,” expressed Carlo Colella, Vice President for Administration and Finance at the University of Maryland. “In addition, street addresses will facilitate improved way-finding for all University visitors.” 

In addition to public safety enhancement, new street addresses will provide enhanced campus-wide navigation and way-finding for the University community and visitors using third-party mapping services. Coming in 2016, Google Maps, MapQuest and other navigation services will be able to locate all new addresses effectively for directions, events and major safety coordination.

All information regarding the new addressing initiative is hosted at http://maps.umd.edu/addressing, including Frequently Asked Questions, an interactive campus map and new addressing standards.

UMD receives Sierra Magazine Special Achievement Award

August 26, 2015
Contacts: 

Andrew Muir 301-405-7068

UMD finishes first in Big Ten ranking, recognized for excellence in waste reduction efforts

Sierra Magazine Coolest SchoolsCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been awarded a Special Achievement Award by Sierra Magazine as a part of its annual Cool Schools rankings for excellence in campus waste reduction efforts.  In 2014, UMD achieved a 89 percent institutional waste diversion rate and a 56 percent individual recycling rate, which helped the university gain recognition for the strength of solid waste and recycling programs. 

“The university’s continuous rise in diversion and recycling rates represent an enormous commitment by the entire campus community,” said Sandra Dykes, Associate Director of Building & Landscape Maintenance at UMD. “It also reflects well on our educational and outreach programs, since the members of the campus community change yearly, but our message and expectations must remain consistent.  Everyone on campus should take great pride in this award.”

The 89 percent institutional diversion rate was an all-time high for the university, increasing by more than 10 percent from 2013.  The institutional diversion rate reflects all materials the university diverted from landfills, including construction and demolition waste. A key reason for the rate increase was the capture of recyclable materials from construction and renovation projects on campus. UMD’s Facilities Management and Residential Facilities teams have made a commitment to ensuring that waste from project sites is properly managed.

"The University of Maryland deserves much praise for going above and beyond in its efforts to divert trash from landfills,” said Avital Andrews, Lifestyle Editor at Sierra Magazine. “If more institutions held themselves to such high standards, we would be living on a much cleaner planet." 

For the Waste Reduction category, UMD ranked #2 out of 153 schools, with a score of 103.66 out of a total possible 105 points.  UMD also performed strongly in the areas of innovation, planning and co-curricular activities.  In addition, UMD finished first out of Big Ten Schools who made the list, with Penn State University coming second in the Big Ten, and finishing at No. 35 overall.

“We are honored to be recognized as the top Big Ten school in sustainability and for our achievement in waste reduction,” said Scott Lupin, Director of the Office of Sustainability at UMD.  “The university has maintained a sharp focus on expanding its solid waste recycling and landfill diversion efforts over the past many years. From event-wide recycling at home athletic events to compost collection in the dining halls, everyone on campus has taken part to realize this award.” 

UMD continues to take pride in the campus-wide engagement of staff, students and faculty in developing a culture of sustainability.  The upcoming Sustainability Progress Report, set for release this October, will highlight an array of campus achievements from the past year.

UMD Curates Interactive Exhibits, Fun for All Ages at 2015 Maryland State Fair

August 25, 2015
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

Live birthing center, food and farm education, dairy herd exhibits, 4-H demonstrations & more

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Faculty, staff, students and alumni from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR) are gearing up for the Maryland State Fair which begins Friday, August 28th at the state fairgrounds in Timonium, Md. From welcoming newborn animals into the world in front of a live audience, to engaging kids in interactive lessons about where their food comes from, to showcasing some of the finest dairy cows in the state, the College of AGNR is a heavyweight presence at the state fair year after year.

This year, the College of AGNR will showcase and
engage with the public at the following exhibits:

THE BIRTHING CENTER: 

Led by AGNR Professor Emeritus, Tom Hartsock, Ph.D., animal science students from the College of AGNR will work around the clock at the Birthing Center overseeing and assisting with live births of calves, piglets and hatching chicks. The students will also help narrate the births to fairgoers who can witness the miracles first-hand. AGNR students will use Twitter and Instagram (@statefairbirths) to communicate when a labor has begun. The Birthing Center is located inside the Cow Palace behind the Dairy Bar.

U-LEARN FARM:

An interactive, educational area designed for students of all ages, U-Learn Farm focuses on teaching children where their food comes from and what crops are grown in Maryland. Kids can decorate their own jars of grain, pose for pictures as various fruits and vegetables, play inside a big corn pit, take rides on a mini tractor and more.

THE UMD DAIRY HERD EXHIBIT:

The State Fair is a time to shine for the University of Maryland’s very own dairy herd. The cows are on display during the entire 11 days of the state fair, participating in milking demonstrations and showing off for passersby inside the Cow Palace. Students from the College of AGNR will oversee the herd and will be available to answer questions from fairgoers about UMD’s dairy program. Attendees are also encouraged to stop by and help the college name a newborn calf and see what last year’s state fair calf, Moonshine, looks like now at one year old.

HOME AND GARDEN DEMONSTRATIONS:

Experts from the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center and the Maryland Master Gardeners Program will be available to answer any gardening questions and to give tips, ideas and demonstrations to help make gardens bloom better.

4-H EXHIBITS AND SHOWS:

The 4-H youth development program is a big part of the work of University of Maryland Extension and the College of AGNR. They’ll show off the conclusion of projects they’ve been working on throughout the year on everything from robotics to livestock to crops to crafts and clothing. 4-Hers also have the opportunity to show off their skills in various judging competitions. The College of AGNR will offer scholarships to the overall winners in select judging competitions.

 

Keep tabs on all the action by following the College of AGNR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, checking out our continually updated photo gallery, or heading out to the State Fair. 

Be sure to stop by the 4-H Foundation’s food booth for tasty treats and keep the State Fair informed by using the following hashtags:

#statefairterps 

#MD4H 

#MYMDStateFair

For a complete schedule of events, visit www.marylandstatefair.com.

UMD Named a Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly University by Campus Pride

August 24, 2015
Contacts: 

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has been named to Campus Pride’s 2015 Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities list. The listing highlights the positive efforts UMD and other top institutions have made to promote diversity, inclusion and safety for LGBTQ students.

Campus PrideCampus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. For seven years, the listing has highlighted the most LGBTQ-inclusive colleges and universities when it comes to policy, program and practice in higher education.

"Recognition by Campus Pride this year is especially gratifying," said Luke Jensen, director of UMD’s campus LGBT Equity Center. "This honor highlights our collective commitment to improve and grow our efforts in providing an excellent education for LGBTQ students."

This is the first year Campus Pride has released a Top 25 list based on higher LGBTQ benchmarks. The list is based on responses to the Campus Pride Index, a national benchmarking tool which self-assesses LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices. In order to be in the Top 25 listing, an institution has to score the highest percentages in the LGBTQ-friendly benchmarks. UMD was the only Maryland/Washington, D.C.-area university to make the 2015 list.

“As time goes on, the needs of LGBTQ college and university students change,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “Therefore, we have updated our Campus Pride Index assessment to reflect that, with higher standards for campuses and a higher focus on trans and gender nonconforming students.”

According to Windmeyer, “there is a lot to be learned from the Top 25 campuses on this listing. Many of these campuses are specifically addressing recruitment and academic retention efforts for LGBTQ students as well as concerns for transgender student safety, as reflected by their willingness to be the first campuses to take the updated assessment.”

UMD created the LGBT Equity Center to help establish and maintain a fully equitable community that empowers innovators and agents of social justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. The LGBT Equity Center serves University of Maryland students, staff, faculty, and alumni of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Last spring, the LGBT Equity Center founded the Lavender Leadership Honor Society, the world’s first collegiate leadership honor society recognizing student efforts that help LGBTQ communities to flourish both on and off campus. 38 students were inducted at the first ceremony. In addition, the Center created and hosted the Somewhere Over the Rainbow conference, the first-ever conference devoted to the topic of LGBTQ issues in international education administration, drawing over 100 participants from across the United States and abroad. The LGBT Equity Center also conducts two annual student retreats — Queer Camp and the Lavender Leadership Retreat — that build community, create support, and develop social justice leaders.

UMD Department of American Studies Associate Professor Christina Hanhardt was recently awarded the Lambda Literary Award in the category of Best LGBT Studies for her debut title Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence.  The Lambda Literary Foundation is the premier organization promoting and supporting LGBT writing.

To view the list, visit www.campusprideindex.org. To learn more about Campus Pride, visit. www.CampusPride.org.

UMD Alum, Howard County Farmer, Donates Estate Worth $3 Million to Maryland 4-H

August 19, 2015
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

Donation to support Maryland 4-H, a state-wide, community-based youth organization administered by UMD Extension

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The generous donation of a University of Maryland alumnus and Howard County farmer's estate is greatly enhancing the Maryland 4-H Foundation's ability to sustain and improve youth development efforts statewide, foundation officials announced recently.

The foundation provides financial support to Maryland 4-H, a statewide, community-based youth development program administered by University of Maryland Extension within UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The sale of development rights and real estate of an 80-acre farm bequeathed to the foundation by Lansdale Pue, who died on April 19, 2013, translated into more than $3 million to support numerous 4-H programs, scholarships and trips.

Pue was a seventh generation farmer whose family operated a dairy from 1931 to 2006 and later raised beef cattle, row crops and hay. He graduated from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture & Natural Resources in 1968 and was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. 

With no heirs active in farming to carry on the family tradition, Pue made the decision to leave his land to the Maryland 4-H Foundation. Last winter, the foundation sold the development rights through Howard County's Agricultural Land Preservation.

"Growing up with Lansdale Pue and participating in 4-H together, it is truly an honor to now accept the gift of his farm to the Maryland 4-H Foundation," said Charles E. Iager, Chairman and President of the Maryland 4-H Foundation and a fellow Howard County dairy farmer. "In acknowledgement of his stewardship of the land, the foundation board decided to have the farm preserved forever, ensuring that Lansdale's agricultural heritage will continue." 

On July 28, that heritage was cemented when David and Lydia Liker, who operate Gorman Farm, bought the farmland where they plan to grow vegetables and host agritourism activities. 

Money from the sale will be used in several ways to support Maryland 4-H. So far, the foundation board has:

  • Set aside funding for leadership development programs on the University of Maryland College Park campus;
  • Put funding toward Maryland 4-H Dairy programs;
  • Established five $1,000 scholarships for 4-H youth which will be awarded beginning in 2016;
  • Established the Lansdale Pue Memorial National 4-H Congress Fund to support 4-H youth traveling to National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Ga.;
  • Endowed the 4-H Foundation's grant program supporting club, county and regional 4-H programs; and
  • Contributed to the county 4-H programs that have endowments with the Maryland 4-H Foundation.

"This generous donation of the Pue estate allows the foundation to continue to be responsive to the needs of the 4-H program and impact the lives of 4-Hers for generations to come," said Amanda Brown Clougherty, Maryland 4-H Foundation Executive Director. "We can do so much more because we have this gift. The foundation assists programs at every level of 4-H, from the club level to international travel, and that will be made stronger with this gift."

UMD Advances NASA Mission to Build A Better Battery for Space Exploration

August 18, 2015
Contacts: 

Elise Carbonaro 301-405-6501
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

UMD researchers awarded NASA funding for advanced energy storage technology

Image courtesy of NASA

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A research team from the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) has been awarded $1 million in NASA funding for its all solid-state battery, a game-changing technology that could potentially power future space missions. 

The Garnet Electrolyte Based Safe, Lithium-Sulfur Energy Storage project, developed by A. James Clark School of Engineering faculty members Eric Wachsman, Liangbing Hu, and Chunsheng Wang, is a triple threat, solving the typical problems that trouble existing lithium-ion batteries: safety, performance and cost. 

“This all solid-state technology really changes everything, as it addresses all of the concerns we have about batteries today, and has brought the University of Maryland to the cutting-edge of battery research,” said Wachsman, who serves as the director of UMERC and a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The new NASA award moves the UMD battery into the second phase of a three-phase NASA funding process for developing full-scale prototypes of batteries for future space missions. UMD successfully competed with Phase II proposals from federally funded research and development centers, other universities and industry. An energy storage device being developed by Amprius Inc. of Sunnyvale, California was the other technology to receive NASA Phase II funding.

"Technology drives exploration, and battery technology is a critical element of that drive," Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a NASA release. "These next-generation batteries will dramatically improve the availability and affordability of the power and energy required for future exploration missions. The development effort will focus on delivering safe, low mass batteries to enable longer missions deeper into space."

The Altair lunar lander pictured in this artist rendering will ba key component in NASA’s Constellation Program, a combination   of spacecraft, launch vehicles and missions  designed to return human explorers to the moon and ultimately to allow them to explore   other destinations in the solar system. Courtesy NASA

Through his work on fuel cells, UMD’s Wachsman has created and perfected low-cost ceramic fabrication techniques, demonstrating the ability to fabricate thin-film ceramic battery electrolytes with very low resistance. The high stability of these garnet ceramic electrolytes enabled the team to use metallic lithium anodes, which contain the greatest possible theoretical energy density and are considered to the holy grail of batteries. He says that combined with high capacity sulfur cathodes, this all solid-state battery technology offers a potential unmatched energy density that far outperforms any lithium-ion battery currently on the market, making this technology uniquely capable of meeting NASA’s goal of reducing mass required to store electrical power in space. 

This UMD battery technology is also safer than lithium-ion batteries, which typically contain a liquid organic electrolyte and can catch fire under certain conditions, as shown by reported laptop and electric vehicle battery fires and even the temporary grounding of the Boeing 787 fleet for a series of battery fires. This fire risk is eliminated by the UMD team’s use of a solid-state ceramic electrolyte in their battery. 

“Lithium-ion batteries are used in everything from consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptops to electric vehicles,” said Hu, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering. “[Our] technology is safer than existing liquid-based lithium-ion batteries, and offers a much higher energy density.”

“In addition to its intrinsic safety, another unique feature of our solid-state garnet lithium-sulfur battery is that the dense garnet electrolyte can prevent the shuttle reaction of sulfur cathodes and dendrite of lithium anodes, allowing the realization of high energy lithium-sulfur chemistry,” said Wang, who is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This dramatically improves the longevity for lithium-sulfur batteries.

NASA is testing concepts for a new generation of vehicles. The Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) concept is designed to be flexible depending on the destination. Some of the new technologies to be developed for the surface and in-space concepts include new batteries and new fuel cells.

Last year, the team’s Phase I NASA award supported proof-of-concept research that demonstrated the technology’s performance and reliability. Now in Phase II of NASA’s Game Changing Development (GCD) program, Wachsman, Hu, and Wang will focus on optimizing the cell structure and scaling up its size to a commercially viable format. In 2016, the team will submit a proposal for up to $2 million in Phase III funding to make a full-scale prototype designed to achieve NASA’s ultimate goal of sending these batteries into space.

The technology was born from Wachsman and Hu’s solid-state battery project, in collaboration with University of Calgary associate professor Venkataraman Thangadurai, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E). In 2014, Wachsman, Hu, and Thangadurai won the University of Maryland Invention of the Year Award in the physical sciences category for this solid-state battery technology. 

Wachsman noted that the University of Maryland is one of the leaders in “electrochemical energy conversion and storage” research, which includes the development of new fuel cell and battery technologies.

Pages

September 3
UMD co-authored study finds tiny particles reveal information about Earth’s geologic past and human-made radioactivity. Read
September 2
National Citizen Advisory Panel expresses concerns over terms of the deal, but no alternative seen as better.  Read
September 1
New research explores how climate change policies may reduce extinctions through their impact on how land is used. Read
August 31
Locatable street address have been assigned to all UMD-owned properties. Read