U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Technology Development Manager
SunShot CSP Program
On Contract from ManTech International Corporation
Dr. Levi Irwin began working in the field of solar energy in 2007 while developing molten salt electrolytes with room temperature melting points. The discovery and development of these fluids occurred while working for ZettaCore, a molecular materials company that serves the electronics and energy industries. The newly discovered molten salt electrolytes had interesting thermophysical properties which led to their further optimization and exploration for use as heat transfer fluids in the collection of solar energy. The exploration of the thermophysical properties was done through a collaborative research and development agreement with the United States Air Force Academy.
"As a scientist, I have always been interested in energy balance—how much energy is in a system, and how much energy is coming versus how much energy is going," Levi says. "The same approach can be taken in evaluating the energy balance of Earth. If you do this you immediately see that the daily energy demands on Earth are dwarfed by the quantity of energy coming into our system every day. Where does this new energy come from? The sun. In other words, from an energy balance perspective, Earth is not isolated—it is part of a bigger system."
Subsequently, Levi joined the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office as a contractor from ManTech International Corporation in September of 2011. His work focuses on enabling concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies to achieve the cost targets set by the SunShot Initiative. Specifically, he manages a portfolio of thermal energy collection, conversion, and storage awards by DOE.
"One area I'm very excited about is solar thermochemical energy storage. This energy storage strategy uses solar-enabled chemical reactions to capture, transport, and store solar energy. It has the potential to store energy at more than 20 times the energy density of current storage technologies—and it may be a way to convert solar energy into a commodity chemical that could, in turn, be converted to electricity. That energy-enriched chemical could be distributed regionally and stored indefinitely, making it easier to generate electricity during extended periods of low solar availability."
Levi received his B.S. in chemistry, magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2001. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in chemistry from Texas A&M University in 2005 under a College of Science Fellowship. He has several peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and multiple U.S. patents.
Levi manages the following projects: