UNC Charlotte introduced government officials, and economic development and industry partners to two growing research areas of focus: predicting health and environmental risk and next-generation battery research during an open house on Monday, June 5.
During the Powering the Future event, guests toured North Carolina’s Battery Complexity, Autonomous Vehicle and Electrification Research Center, or BATT CAVE, and visited the Center for Computational Intelligence to Predict Health and Environmental Risks, or CIPHER.
“At UNC Charlotte, we are embracing our vision as an emerging top-tier, world-class research university,” said John Daniels, interim vice chancellor of research. “This is needed to support the industries and communities in our fast-growing region. Both CIPHER and BATT CAVE represent the innovative, interdisciplinary team-based research you’ll find only at Charlotte.”
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who spoke at the event, said, “This is an exciting opportunity. We are at a convergence point and everything this University has done since I have been involved in politics is proving that the bets you all wanted us to place are returning incredible value. You’ve been good stewards of taxpayer dollars and are graduating capable people. This is just another incredible success story that we have to continue to build on.”
BATT CAVE: Meeting a Critical Need
Part of The William States Lee College of Engineering, BATT CAVE is the only university-led research center in the state focused on advancing the fast-growing field of battery technology, safety and electrification research. This research is directly applicable to vehicles, in particular electric vehicles, and all systems dependent on clean energy use.
Electric vehicle manufacturing is projected to increase 17% over the next decade, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States as well as North Carolina. In 2021, the North Carolina General Assembly made an investment of more than $40 million to renovate research center facilities, purchase state-of-the-art equipment and hire additional faculty — all of which will support an expanded talent pipeline of skilled engineers prepared to meet the industry demand. With this investment and its position in the midst of the state’s EV and battery, mining, processing and manufacturing economy, UNC Charlotte continues to lead transformational energy research and talent production.
Jun Xu, an internationally recognized battery safety and modeling expert, serves as BATT CAVE’s director. Xu and his team of faculty and graduate-level students base their experiential learning and research activity at the BATT CAVE facility on UNC Charlotte’s research campus, near the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, EPIC, an established leader in energy research.
Demonstrations during the BATT CAVE portion of the tour included an EV race car developed and fabricated by students in 49ers Racing; wireless power transfer designed for rail transportation introduced for Belmont Trolley; and PoleVolt, a universal charging solution designed for installation on street-side light poles, developed in partnership with EPIC, Duke Energy, the City of Charlotte and Centralina Regional Council.
CIPHER: Creating a Safer Future
The General Assembly awarded CIPHER $9 million in federal CARES Act funding in 2020—the largest state appropriation for research in Charlotte’s history—to support COVID-19 research and testing and for the development and analysis of genomic and epidemiological data to address the spread of infectious diseases, assess treatments and therapeutics, and combat the pandemic and future microbial threats.
CIPHER, part of the College of Computing and Informatics, has 25,000-square feet of research space, including eight wet labs and 14 computational labs. The center comprises 48 researchers, and 23 interdisciplinary scientists from across the University, plus scientists from other UNC System schools, and visiting scientists from national and international universities. The areas of expertise include computer science, bioinformatics, genomics software and information systems, biological sciences, math, geography, public health, data science, education and communications.
Co-directed by Dan Janies, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics, and Adam Reitzel, professor of biological sciences, CIPHER researchers use computing and genomics technologies synergistically to study emergent viruses and durable problems – including vector (tick and mosquito) borne diseases, antibiotic resistance, fungal diseases, food safety, disease surveillance and failing ecosystem health.
Demonstrations during the CIPHER portion of the tour included bat, tick-borne disease and sea anemone research to help better understand viruses and other diseases.
BATT CAVE research center to accelerate innovations in batteries