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Sri R. Narayan

Professor of Chemistry

Ph.D., 1988, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
M.S., 1981, IIT Madras (Chennai), India
B.S., 1979, University of Madras, India
Office: LHI 122
Phone: 213-740-5965
Fax: 213-740-6679

Research Focus


Prof. Narayan's research focuses on the fundamental and applied aspects of electrochemical energy conversion and storage to reduce the carbon footprint of energy use and by providing energy alternatives to fossil fuel. To this end, group focuses on three major topics:

  1. Large-scale energy storage in batteries to enable renewable energy generation
  2. Developing advanced materials and systems to enable commercialization of high-energy density fuel cell and battery technologies
  3. Converting carbon dioxide and sunlight to liquid fuel by electrochemical routes

These relationships are depicted in the figure below.

Prof. Narayan is also involved in the development of high energy density power sources for military and aerospace applications, electro-synthesis of inorganics and organics, sensors and water purification.

Prof. Narayan's research focuses on an "end-to-end" approach to technology development that involves (a) designing and selecting new materials, (b) resolving issues with component and subsystem performance, and (c) scale up and technology transfer for commercialization. This approach prepares and enables the researchers in the group to develop skills needed for being successful in academia and industry.

Specific research topics of current interest are:

  • Inexpensive and eco-friendly iron-based batteries for large-scale electrical energy storage for the smart grid.
  • Robust and efficient bi-functional air electrode for rechargeable oxygen electrodes and alkaline membrane fuel cells.
  • Durable and inexpensive catalysts for the direct oxidation of methanol for high-energy portable power sources.
  • Developing new cathode materials for high-energy lithium-based batteries for vehicular transportation
  • Predicting the state-of-health of large vehicular batteries
  • Improving the efficiency and selectivity in the electro-reduction of carbon dioxide to carbon- neutral fuels such as methanol.

Biographical information

Prof. Narayan received his Ph. D in electrochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and a Masters in Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (Chennai). He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Exeter, UK and also was awarded the Resident Research Associateship of the National Research Council to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During his 20 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) he led the fuel cell research activities for over 15 years and also headed the Electrochemical Technologies Group for 7 years. He has worked successfully with various government and private funding agencies to make advances in both fundamental and applied aspects of electrochemical power sources. While at JPL, Dr. Narayan and his associates pioneered the development of direct methanol fuel cell power sources for military and commercial applications, developed new approaches to catalyst preparation by the sputter-deposition technique, new membranes and stacks, and demonstrated a range of hybrid power source systems for space and defense application. He received NASA-JPL's Exceptional Achievement Award for the development of direct methanol fuel cell and transferring the technology to industry. He has over 35 journal publications and 40 US Patents on various aspects of electrochemical technology. He has delivered invited talks on numerous occasions and has organized several conferences under the auspices of the Electrochemical Society. From 2009-2011 he was the Chairman of the Energy Technology Division of the Electrochemical Society of USA. He has active collaborations with NASA, DoE's National Laboratories, and Industry. Prof. Narayan joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry, Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute in May 2010 to advance electrochemical power sources research.


  • At least one post-doctoral research associate position is available in 2012.
  • Interested graduate students are welcome to contact Prof. Narayan.
  • Prof. Narayan teaches three graduate classes in Electrochemistry: "Materials and Processes in Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage"," Electrode Kinetics- Theory and Applications" and "Surface Chemistry and Electrocatalysis" in the Fall/Spring semesters (see schedule of classes for details)
  • Awarded $1.8M DoE-ARPA-E research contract for "Inexpensive and Robust Iron-Air Batteries for Grid-Scale Energy Storage" (Oct 2010- Sep 2013).
  • Awarded $190K US Army research contract for "Iron-Chloride Batteries for Large-Scale Energy Storage", (Jan 2012- Dec 2012).
  • USC and Caltech-JPL issued a license to Smart Fuel Cell for use of US Patent 5,599,638 and several other associated patents on direct methanol fuel cells (2011) developed by Prof. Narayan and USC/JPL colleagues.

Narayan Group Members:

Post-Doctoral Associates:

  • Dr. Aswin Manohar, (Ph.D, USC Material Science)
  • Dr. Bo Yang, ( Ph.D USC, Chemistry)
  • Dr. Souradip Malkhandi ( Ph.D., Technical University-Munich, Germany)

Graduate Students:

  • Ms. Kyu Min Kim (2011- )
  • Mr. Phong Trinh (2011- )

Masters Student Researchers:

  • Mr. Krishna Jayachandrababu (M.S. Materials Science)
  • Mr. Chenguang Yang (M.S. Materials Science)
  • Collaborations:

    NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Energy Technology Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, USC (Prof. G. K. Surya Prakash, Prof. George. A. Olah, Prof. Florian Mansfeld), Creare Inc., NH, American Lithium Energy, San Diego, CA

    Selected publications


    1. R. Narayanan , G. K. Surya Prakash, A. Manohar, Bo Yang and S. Malkhandi "Materials Challenges and Technical Approaches for Realizing Inexpensive and Robust Iron-Air Batteries for Large-Scale Energy Storage", Solid State Ionics 2011 In Press doi:10.1016/j.ssi.2011.12.002.
    2. A. Goeppert, M. Czaun, R.May, G. K. Surya Prakash,; G. Olah, and Narayanan, S. "Carbon Dioxide Capture from the Air Using a Polyamine Based Regenerable Solid Adsorbent", accepted, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133 20164-20167
    3. Bo Yang, A. Manohar, G. K. Surya Prakash, Weibo Chen and S. R. Narayanan*, "Anhydrous Proton Conducting Membranes based on Poly-4-vinylpyridinium phosphate for Electrochemical Applications" J. Phys. Chem. B, 2011 115 14462-14468.
    4. S. R. Narayanan, B. Haines, J. Soler, and T. I. Valdez, "Electrochemical Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Formate in Alkaline Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Cells", J. Electrochem. Soc., 158 A167- (2011)
    5. S. R. Narayanan, A. Kindler, T. I.Valdez, A.Kisor, R. Roy, C. Eldridge, B. Murach, M.Hobercht, and J. Graf, "Dual-Feed Balanced High Pressure Electrolysis of Water in a Lightweight Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Stack", J. Electrochem. Soc., 158 B1-B10 (2011).
    6. S. R. Narayanan, T. I. Valdez and S. Firdosy, "Analysis of the Performance of Nafion-based Hydrogen-Oxygen Fuel Cells" J. Electrochem. Soc., 156 (2009) B152-B159.
    7. Whitacre JF, Valdez TI, Narayanan SR "A high-throughput study of PtNiZr catalysts for application in PEM fuel cells" Electrochimica Acta, Volume: 53 (2008) Issue: 10 Pages: 3680- 3689.
    8. S. R. Narayanan, Shao-Pin Yen, S. Greenbaum, " Anhydrous Proton Conducting Polymer Electrolytes for Fuel Cells" J. Physical Chemistry B 110 3942. (2006).
    9. Jay Whitacre, T. I. Valdez and S. R. Narayanan, "The Discovery of Low Noble-Metal Content Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Electrocatalysts Via a Robust Combinatorial Technique", J. Electrochemical Society 152 A1780 (2005)
    10. S. R. Narayanan, T.I.Valdez, "Portable Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Systems", in "Handbook of Fuel Cells" Vol IV Part 1, (Eds. H. Gasteiger, A. Lamm and W. Veilstich), Wiley Interscience ( March 2003)
    11. Narayanan SR, Valdez TI, Chun W, "Design and operation of an electrochemical methanol concentration sensor for direct methanol fuel cell systems" Electrochem. Solid State Letters, 3: (3) 117-120 (2000).
    12. S. R. Narayanan et al, G. K. S. Prakash et al and J. Kosek et al, " Direct Electro-oxidation of Trimethoxymethane, Dimethoxymethane and Trioxane in Fuel Cells", J. Electrochemical Soc., 144 (1997) 4195.
    13. S,.Surampudi, S. R. Narayanan, E. Vamos, H. Frank and G. Halpert, "Advances in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells", J. Power Sources, 47(1994) 377-385. This article has been cited 200 times since it has been published and is one of the most cited papers on this topic.
    14. S. R. Narayanan, S. Surampudi, A. I. Attia and G. Halpert " Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy of Lithium-Titanium Disulfide Rechargeable Cells",J. Electrochem. Soc., 140(1993) 1854
    15. S. R. Narayanan, "Analysis of the failure mechanisms in magnesium/ manganese dioxide dry cells", J. Power Sources, 34 (1991) 13.

    Selected Patents (from 40 Patents):

    1. US Patent 5,599,638 titled "Aqueous Liquid Feed Organic Fuel Cell using Solid Polymer Electrolyte Membrane" is the seminal patent in the area of Direct Methanol Fuel Cells that conceived and disclosed for the first time the features of a new type of fuel cell with energy content of ten to fifteen times that of advanced batteries.
    2. US Patent 5,773,162 Direct methanol feed fuel cell and system
    3. US Patent 6,444,343 titled "Polymer Electrolytes for use in fuel cells" discloses a novel polymer electrolyte system that addresses one of the major issues with direct methanol fuel cells namely that of methanol crossover. This membrane is enabling materials technology for direct methanol fuel cells
    4. US Patent 6,171,721 Sputter-deposited fuel cell membranes and electrodes
    5. US Patent 6,533,919 Hydrogen generation by electrolysis of aqueous organic solutions

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