Xavier University has been awarded a $5 million federal grant for a five-year project that aims to improve the performance of lithium batteries as part of a broader effort to engage more minority students in math and sciences.

The grant was one of 10 nationwide — totaling nearly $47 million — that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded as part of its Minority University Research and Education Project, which is intended to help push advances in energy storage.

Xavier’s pitch was chosen from among 76 proposals; it was the only Louisiana school to receive such a grant.

Xavier’s project, “Solid High Energy Lithium Battery Institution,” is a cooperative effort involving scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Auburn University, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and NASA’s Glenn Research Center, according to the university.

Lamartine Meda, a Xavier chemistry professor and the project’s lead investigator, said the initiative has two main focuses: research and education.

Overall, Xavier hopes its latest effort will help ensure a steady stream of minority students graduating in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a particular area of focus for college officials across the country.

The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology reported in 2012 that fewer than 40 percent of students who enroll in college to earn a degree in such a field end up doing so.

Xavier also plans to establish the SHELiB Center — shorthand for Solid High Energy Lithium Batteries — a research center that will bring together faculty from fields like chemistry, physics and engineering to conduct, and engage students in, interdisciplinary research.

“The development of stable, ultra-high-energy density and all-solid-state lithium batteries with excellent safety and rate performance are needed for enabling many technologies and are particularly important in NASA space-related missions, where space and accessibility are limited,” Meda said.

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