Hannah Pineault one of four to win Honda funding


American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) is helping the research of four Ohio State graduate students and several student capstone teams to take flight as part of a grant to The Ohio State University for sustainable aviation research and learning. 

Hannah Pineault
Hannah Pineault 

Hannah Pineault, the top recipient of the four graduate student awards Hone and the Ohio State Sustainability Institute made, is  a doctoral student in the Nicholas Brunelli Research Group. She received $10,000 for her research on sustainable aviation fuels. Pineault is pursuing her PhD in chemical engineering, with a focus on decarbonizing the aviation industry. Like the auto industry, some manufacturers of small aircraft are exploring the use of batteries to power electric motors.  However, batteries are too heavy and do not provide high-enough energy density for takeoff of larger aircraft.  Instead, Pinault's research centers on replacing traditional jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) consisting of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids.  Pinault and her team are exploring alternatives like ethanol conversion into jet fuel that presents the potential for a closed-loop cycle that captures carbon dioxide emissions and transforms them into valuable biomass and fuel. 

Because scalability of SAF is currently limited, Pineault's research centers on utilizing catalytic materials to improve production. Her work focuses on ethanol conversion and the integration of cyclic compounds like furfural, known for enhancing SAF characteristics.  

Pineault stated, “The hope is to make these materials industrially relevant, incorporate them, and scale them up. We really focus on material design. But another important part of engineering is scaling that technology and making it accessible.” 

Earlier this year, Pineault won a Tri-State Catalysis Club Travel Award to attend the North American Meeting (NAM) of the North American Catalysis Society June 18-23, 2023. A holder of the Triplett Fellowship, she also investigates novel methods to recycle plastics. She is also active in campus leadership activities, serving on the department's Chemical Engineering Graduate Council (CEGC) as vice president, and worked to organize last fall's Graduate Research Symposium, a premier event for graduate students. Pineault has also served on the Chemical Hygiene Committee (ChyComm) for the Brunelli Laboratory, helping to earn their lab the department's ChyComm Award for Outstanding Laboratory Safety.

The Honda grants target the difficult challenge of decarbonizing the aviation industry by mobilizing the talents of students who understand the serious threat that climate change poses to the world today.  Although aviation accounts for only 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, that figure is expected to increase as other transportation sectors such as automotive move toward electrification.  Honda provided a total of $100,000 in grants as part of its commitment to support programs that aim to build a carbon free and sustainable future. 

“This grant exemplifies the core values and visions we believe at Honda: devote resources to power the ideas and dreams of future generation, stay fully committed to achieve zero environmental impact, and collaborate with universities and government to tackle the challenge of our time,” said Kui Ou, Ph.D., Senior Director of Flight Sciences at Honda Aircraft Company.

“Through the awards, we proudly support the student recipients at Ohio State University to pursue their bright ideas to expand their life’s potentials and to bring forward a more sustainable future. We are very honored to be part of their journey in collaboration with our prestigious public partners.” 

The funds from Honda are also supporting several student capstone teams from the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as well as Materials Science and Engineering.  The company has made the experience more tangible by connecting the students to engineers at the Honda Aircraft Company who have suggested real-world challenges for the capstone teams to tackle.  These include fluid dynamics simulations to optimize aircraft weight and balance and investigations into varying bondline thicknesses of multiple layers of film adhesive to enhance aircraft manufacturing for lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft. 

Kate Bartter, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, applauded the difference the Honda grant is making. “These initiatives exemplify Honda's commitment to nurturing innovation and sustainability in aviation through the support of emerging engineers who have a personal stake in solving the problem of climate change.”  

Read about other recipients of the Honda grants in this story.



Category: Grad Students