The Institute for Functional Nanomaterials is a research centre in the field of functional nanomaterials.

It is managed by the Resource Center for Science and Engineering and has active participants from four campuses of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).

The institute was established in 2007 with a $9 USD million NSF grant over 3 years in the reserve round, and an institutional contribution from UPR in the amount of $3.9 USD million over the three-year duration of the grant.

The Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium (PRSGC) was established in 1993, in conjunction with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with the MISSION to enhance local research and education capabilities in aerospace-related fields and to contribute to the nation's science and technology enterprise by capitalizing on the wealth of institutional and human potential resident on the Island through a multifaceted and balanced approach bolstered by an expanded and diversified system of fifteen affiliates (Ana G. Mendez University System, Puerto Rico Astronomical Society, UPR/Carolina, Arecibo Observatory, Education Department of PR, UPR/Cayey, Interamerican University/Bayamón, Univisión Puerto Rico,UPR/ Humacao, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, UPR/Arecibo, UPR/– Mayagüez, Pontifical Catholic University, UPR/Bayamón and UPR/Rio Piedras) that constitute a virtual organization of scientists, educators and public servants throughout the Island, with the University of Puerto Rico-Central Administration as the lead institution with headquarters at the Resource Center for Science and Engineering. PRSGC contributes to NASA mission, with special emphasis on its third component: “to inspire the next generation of explorers … as only NASA can.”

Established in 1994 by the Resource Center for Science and Engineering (RCSE) of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in conjunction with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the PR NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (PR NASA EPSCoR) has been implementing strategic tasks to enhance Puerto Rico’s research competitiveness and infrastructure, in alignment with the NASA mission and vision, advancing and supporting activities that lead to collaborative research with NASA Field Centers and Directorates, expand PR’s capabilities in NASA-related sciences at the higher education level, attract students into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and support new and ongoing NASA exploration mission-related research and students.

The new NASA Vision for Space Exploration calls for the development of reliable, efficient, compact power sources, which are of critical importance in support of crewed missions to the Moon for extended periods of time, and to eventually send crewed missions to Mars with a real chance of survival and return.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells address the NASA priority of developing new, efficient, compact, portable, and environmentally friendly energy sources. Achieving a high degree of efficiency and durability that meets the needs and specifications of the Space Exploration Program, is however, a task yet to be accomplished.

Our approach to making significant progress in this area consists in developing novel nanostructured electrochemical materials, understanding their electrochemical behavior under actual device operating conditions, and utilizing this knowledge to enhance their electrochemical properties.

The University of Puerto Rico will undertake an integrated experimental/theoretical research program to address functional issues relevant to the design, modeling, fabrication, and characterization of nanoscale materials suitable for enhanced rechargeable lithium ion batteries and fuel cells. Medullar to this program is the development of proof-of-concept and up scaled lithium battery and fuel cell prototypes in collaboration with the Electrochemistry Brach at NASA Glenn Research Center.

The research will focus on applied issues of nanostructured cathode, anode, and polymer electrolyte materials relevant for their usage in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells. The research efforts are aimed at finding the best-performing, robust, most economical, and environmentally friendly nanostructured anode-electrolyte-cathode systems, which would also yield a significant gain in charge capability, along with higher cycleability with stability under harsh conditions. The proposed research is currently a forefront scientific field and our main objective is advancing its technological realization in the context of Space Exploration.

The strong feasibility of this project arises from its multidisciplinary approach and synergistic collaboration with the pertinent device developers at Glenn Research Center from the early stages of nano material selection and synthesis, through prototype testing, until accomplishing a Technology Readiness Level appropriate for technology transferring to NASA scientists and engineers for further refinement.