SOLAR ENERGY: We have developed significant programs in solar energy. New approaches to the design and manufacture of solar cells to reduce their cost are an important area of focus in solar PV. We are developing novel approaches to engineer low cost, naturally abundant manufacturable materials into defect-tolerant high efficiency devices. We work on nanostructured solar thermoelectric and thermophotovoltaic materials and devices, combined heat and power in concentrated solar thermal electrics, and optimal system design. Work on concentrated solar thermal systems include addressing the storage challenges as well as engineering antifouling surfaces for mirrors and collectors, and hybridizing these systems with other renewable and fossil based sources.
WIND ENERGY: Energy generated from floating offshore wind farms is the next frontier in wind energy. Innovative and economical wind turbine floaters are being developed for deployment in large-scale offshore wind farms in water depths up to several hundred meters.
CARBON CAPTURE: More than 85% of our energy currently comes from fossil fuels, a percentage that is unlikely to change soon. Capture and storage of carbon dioxide from power plants and fuel production facilities is necessary for mitigating global warming. Major challenges remain before these technologies can be deployed at scale. Our programís objective is to provide the necessary knowledge for enabling CO2 capture, including research on gasification of solid fuels including biomass, IGCC related technologies, oxy-combustion, systemís integration and optimization, syngas utilization, and novel gas separation technologies. We work on the production of hydrogen and its liquefaction and storage.
TRANSPORTATION: In transportation, the major challenge is to increase vehicle fuel economy, reduce emissions, and initiate the transition to non-petroleum fuels. We are working on improving combustion engines, developing viable fuel cell and advanced battery systems, and exploring innovative approaches to using hydrogen in engines and fuel cell powered vehicles.
MODELING AND SIMULATIONS: Advanced modeling and simulations are prerequisite for developing control technology to optimize energy and propulsion systemsí performance: including stability, emissions, efficiency and power density. We work on the development and application of advanced simulation methodologies for reactive flows focusing on dynamics, control-oriented models, and implementation of adaptive control algorithms including sensing and actuations.
BATTERIES AND STORAGE: Energy storage is a significant enabler for expanding the use of renewable energy and for electrification of the transportation system. Our faculty are involved in developing fundamental knowledge for efficient and higher energy density lithium ion batteries. We work on investigating mechanisms governing the performance of fuel cells for transportation and electricity generation. Research includes catalysis of small molecules such as oxygen reduction and water splitting, polymeric materials for ion transport, simulation of transport-electrochemistry interactions, electrolytic and photoelectrochemical cells.
BUILDING TECHNOLOGY: In environmental conditioning, the United States per capita energy use is among the highest in the world, in part because the per capita space usage is also high. One important challenge is to apply environmental conditioning only to necessary regions within a space, rather than uniformly throughout the space. Here we are working on small cryogenic systems that can provide precision cooling to small areas. That work is being expanded to scales and temperatures suitable for cooling electronics, sensors, and personal spaces.
MICRO AND NANOTECHNOLOGY: Our faculty are engaged in fundamental research on transport phenomena at the macroscale and microscale, including enhanced heat transfer, high heat flux heat transfer, micro and nanoscale heat and mass transport, with applications to a range of problems including advanced water purification and desalination through thermal and membrane based processes. Todayís clean water production technologies require orders of magnitude more energy than theoretically required; we aim to significantly improve their efficiency and economies. We are also exploring the opportunities for thermoelectric energy technologies. Work has been initiated on advanced materials where, by exploiting nanoscale phenomena and technology, new precision applications to energy conversion may be feasible.