The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE) invites undergraduates to apply for paid summer internships and externships. Funding is provided for research projects performed under the direction of faculty doing research in areas related to the center’s mission of finding solutions to secure our energy and environmental future. If selected, current freshmen, sophomores, or juniors receive a $4,000 stipend for eight weeks of summer research and up to $4,000 for research related expenses.
These internships are funded by the Peter B. Lewis Fund for Student Innovation in Energy and the Environment and the Dede T. Bartlett P03 Fund for Student Research in Energy and the Environment. Six undergraduates have been awarded research funds for 2017. Projects from past years may be viewed here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Energy-Related Research Projects for summer 2017
Sigrid Adriaenssens, CEE
During operation, buildings use as much as 41% of all energy consumed in the US. Since current adaptive building skins generate operational energy savings on the order of 50%, in hot and moderate climates, the potential for energy demand reduction by implementing adaptive skins is significant. The proposed project seeks to develop a digital methodology to predict the solar and mechanical behavior of bimetal adaptive façade elements. This project will be carried out in collaboration with designer and artist Prof. Doris Kim Sung (DOSU-Architecture). Sophomore or junior with a civil, environmental, mechanical or architecture background preferred.
Bamboo, like wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for the construction of buildings and bridges in regions with rapidly developing economies. The objective of this research project is to determine and optimize the efficiency of structural bamboo connections. The student will also explore the engineering design of a bamboo hypar-grid shell system intended as a bus shelter canopy.
Jose Avalos, CBE
Metabolic Engineering for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals – Metabolic engineering involves the genetic engineering of organisms to rewire their metabolism for the production of compounds of interest. In our lab we focus on metabolic engineering of different yeast species, using cutting edge technologies in molecular biology. Multiple projects are available in this area, including for the sustainable production of biofuels, bioplastics, chemicals, and drugs.
Synthetic Biology for cellular control – Synthetic biology combines molecular biology, genetic engineering, directed evolution, biophysics, computational biology, and protein engineering with the aim to generate synthetic phenotypes. There are several projects available to use synthetic biology to develop biosensors, genetic circuits, and enzyme control, which will allow us to accelerate strain development, control engineered metabolic pathways, and optimize engineered strains.
Mitochondrial engineering – This project involves engineering yeast mitochondrial physiology to enhance metabolic pathways targeted to this organelle. Several projects are available to target mitochondrial fusion, fission, biogenesis, and mitophagy to study mitochondrial physiology, facilitate mitochondrial engineering, and develop synthetic organelles.
Minjie Chen, ELE/ACEE (Additional projects available, see professor)
A Merged Photovoltaic Cell Balancer and Wireless Power Transfer System – This project will develop a merged photovoltaic cell balancer and wireless power transmitter that can charge cellphones wirelessly with solar energy.
Developing power electronics systems for ELE581 – This project will develop a few classic power – converters for demo purposes in future ELE581 (power electronics) lectures. Students will gain hands-on experience on building a few most widely used power converters in daily applications.
Paul Chirik, CHM
Carbon Neutral Methods for Ammonia Synthesis and Oxidation – The synthesis of ammonia from its elements, N2 and H2, and the reverse reaction, the oxidation of NH3 to dinitrogen and dihydrogen are chemical transformations that are key for carbon neutrality. The industrial Haber-Basch industrial ammonia synthesis relies on methane-derived hydrogen, generates considerable CO2 pollution and inspires the search for alternative methods compatible with renewable H2. Our research group is exploring proton coupled electron transfer (PCET) methods as a pathway for N-H bond formation and scission. Measurement of N-H bond dissociation free energies (BDFEs) of coordinated nitrogen ligands (amides, imides, hydrazides, and ammonia) accompany our approach and guides rational design of transition metal complexes and optimization of ligands to attenuate redox potentials and N-H acidity. As described in the references given below, we have devised methods to rationally control the strengths of N-H bonds in coordinated ammonia to either synthesize NH3 or release H2 from coordinated ammines. Students involved in the project will synthesize new transition metal compounds, conduct state-of-the-art bond strength calculations and make physical methods for measuring N-H bond strengths.
Yiguang Ju, MAE
Biofuel Screening Using Micro Cool Flames – A lot of biofuels have been proposed but are difficult to be tested in engines because of the test costs and amount of fuels needed. This project will develop a micro cool flame reactor to screen the reactivity of biofuels with small quantities. The undergraduate student will work with a graduate student for this project.
Bruce Koel, CBE
Photoelectrochemistry at Modified Hematite (α-Fe2O3) Surfaces for Production of Renewable Hydrogen – This project involves research and development of new hematite (α-Fe2O3)-based photoelectrocatalysts for water splitting to generate renewable H2. Students working on the project will gain experience in synthesis of oxide nanomaterials and deposition of oxide thin films, characterizing these materials, and operating a three-electrode photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell to evaluate their performance. Surface-bound intermediates, as well as their thermal stabilities in the dark and illuminated conditions, will be characterized using in-situ and operando FTIR studies.
Generation of Fuels From Cold Plasma Catalysis of Natural Gas – We study the direct conversion of methane to chemical fuels using a non-equilibrium (cold) plasma generated by a dielectric barrier discharge in combination with a heterogeneous catalyst system. Students working on the project will gain experience in heterogeneous catalysis, synthesis of supported catalysts, plasma processes, and use of gas chromatography.
Hydrogen Uptake and Retention in Li Films for Plasma-Materials Interactions – This project uses surface science instrumentation to obtain quantitative measurements on hydrogen uptake and retention and to elucidate surface chemistry that affects the use of Li coatings on metal (Mo, W) plasma-facing components (PFCs) in high power fusion energy devices. A focus is improve our understanding of chemical erosion (chemical sputtering) and other ion-surface interactions at low incident ion energies as low as 1 eV. This research will take place at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).
Eric Larson/Tom Kreutz, ESAG
Modeling the Prospective Decarbonization of the U.S. Power Grid Using Advanced Generation & Storage Technologies – In collaboration with power producer NRG, ACEE’s Energy Systems Analysis Group (ESAG) is building a model of the U.S. electricity grid to study the prospects for deep decarbonization under high levels of intermittent renewable electricity (IRE). What is the potential role of novel low-carbon generation & storage technologies? Help us discover which policies and advanced technologies will guide the U.S. along the most favorable/least costly decarbonization pathway(s) so that we can meet the aggressive 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets recently agreed to in Paris.
Intern roles, responsibilities, and opportunities:
The intern will assist with
- research into performance and cost of advanced low-carbon power generation, including wind and solar IRE, and storage technologies and developing simplified representations of these for use in grid modeling;
- researching current technologies comprising – and policies governing – an actual power grid, e.g. PJM ISO and developing simplified forms that will serve as the grid model’s initial conditions and operating “rules” that govern economic dispatch competition;
- running the grid model over time, using different assumptions about IRE growth and carbon mitigation policies, to discover if decarbonization occurs, how long it takes, and at what cost to society; and 4) diagnosing failures in the design of current wholesale power markets and incentives for low carbon technologies and propose and assess the efficacy of potential new technologies and policies.
Denise Mauzerall, CEE/WWS
Natural gas is considered a cleaner fossil fuel than coal, but the benefits of using natural gas as a way to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and hence protect climate could be greatly reduced as a result of methane leakage during extraction, collection, transmission and distribution. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas and a chemical precursor of surface ozone. Since the nineteenth century, oil and gas production companies have halted production at wells when they become economically unviable. Although some wells are plugged, others are simply abandoned. Some of these abandoned wells have been observed to emit significant quantities of methane. Our research group will be working to measure fugitive methane emissions from historic oil and gas fields using novel approaches in remote locations. We will then scale-up to state and national-scale to estimate the potential long-term climate impacts of natural gas extraction.
Forrest Meggers, ARC/ACEE
Novel building system prototyping: The CHAOS lab is looking for an undergraduate research assistant to help with experimental setups for building system prototypes and experimental setups involving novel desiccant dehumidification and latent heat exchange systems. The prototyping will involve 3D printing fabrication techniques, and usage of sensors for data collection and analysis. Another aspect will be surveying ventilation systems on Princeton campus as part of Campus as a Lab using Internet of Things sensors. Previous students have also contributed to and been co-authors of academic publications.
Michael Mueller, MAE
Alternative Fuel-Sensitive Combustion Modeling – When new alternative bio-derived or synthetic fuels are developed, these must be “certified” before they can be used in automotive or aviation engines. Experimental certification in a real engine can be very expensive and requires large quantities of the new fuel, which may be extremely expensive to produce initially. Computational certification using numerical simulations could be used as a more economical fuel screening tool, but models are required that are sensitive to variations in fuel composition. Our group has recently developed a new modeling approach for such fuel sensitivity, and this project will involve performing numerical simulations of turbulent combustion to validate this new approach.
Catherine Peters, CEE (2 available projects)
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a climate change mitigation technology that has been cited as essential to meet international climate targets. To manage the safe storage of carbon dioxide in deep subsurface aquifers, the risk of leakage of carbon dioxide from these aquifers needs to be understood and represented in policies. This project aims to investigate how the leakage of subsurface fluids in CCS environments affects rock fractures and resultant leakage using experimental and modeling techniques.
Investigate the effects of solution chemistry on the removal of hazardous metals from wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing of shales. Will use analytical chemistry methods (ICP-MS, IC) and imaging (SEM, TEM, XRD) to analyze removal by chemical precipitation in batch experiments. Help develop a model of the reaction and compare to experimental results.
Barry Rand, ELE/ACEE
Toward Biodegradable, Non-toxic Computing Systems – Electronic, or e-waste, is a major issue that has considerable environmental impacts owing to heavy metals and other toxic components. This summer research project deals with developing processes that are amenable to electronic circuits and systems that degrade in time and return to the environment without deleterious effects. In particular, we are interested in developing self-assembled monolayers, or SAMs, on an insulating layer of Al2O3 to enhance the mobility and uniformity of pentacene transistors. This project will be experimental in nature and involve solution processing, microscopy, and transistor characterization.
Alexander Smits, MAE
We research a new device for generating power from the wind that couples a piezoelectric element to a Helmholtz resonator. These resonators can generate up to 6 W/m^2 of available energy, exceeding the performance of wind turbine farms. We envision these resonators can be used as an alternative energy source for small- and large-scale power needs, such as powering remote sensors, providing the energy needs of a single house, augmenting local energy needs by mounting them of the roofs of buildings in city environments, or using them in large arrays to enhance the power density of conventional wind farms.
Howard Stone, MAE
Laboratory-scale Models Inspired by Hydraulic Fracture – The project involves experimental studies, and possibly some mathematical modeling, to better understand flow problems involves fracture and relaxation of elastic media. Experiments, image processing and data analysis are all part of the project.
Claire White, CEE/ACEE
Designing low-CO2 Cements: Implementation of novel cement materials in the construction industry is hindered by the lack of long-term performance data predicting durability. This summer undergraduate research project consists of performing experiments in Prof. White’s research lab to determine the long-term performance of low-CO2 cements by discovering the underlying chemical mechanisms. Experimental techniques that may be employed include X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. No prior knowledge on the material or experimental techniques is required for this project.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Zero Emission Reduction Technologies:
Evaluation of zero emission reduction technologies for port operations – With the expansion of the Panama Canal, the amount of traffic through the Port of Houston is expected to double, leading to significant increases in emissions from the trade. Several ports, particularly in California, are moving toward zero emission technologies for their operations, including adoption of shore power and the bonnet technologies. This internship would evaluate the market penetration and potential of a couple of key available technologies at ports outside of California. Location: Internship will be based out of the EDF Texas office, Term: Available 8-10 weeks from June-August of 2017.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Air Quality Sensing Technologies:
EDF is experimenting with new, low-cost air quality sensing technologies that will provide an unprecedented view of air quality in neighborhoods and cities. With these new technologies, we are measuring criteria air pollutants which are harmful to human health. The data collection is happening on the streets and near people’s homes and workplaces. This will enable us to get a much more accurate picture of the levels of air pollution people are exposed to in their daily lives. This is an exciting cross-disciplinary project that brings together environmental engineers, data scientists, and air quality and health experts. Our initial pilot is taking place in cities in the Bay Area and we will continue to deploy air quality sensors and collect new data through the summer.
The Intern will work as part of the Air Quality team within the Office of the Chief Scientist, supporting field work measurements, data processing and analysis, and conducting basic secondary research on topics related to air quality and environmental health. Field work will require some local travel within the Bay Area. Location: EDF San Francisco office, Term: 10 weeks during the summer (with some flexibility on start/end dates and duration).
- Support the deployment and maintenance of air quality sensors. The Intern may be asked to work with EDF’s academic and local community partners to support outreach activities and sensor installation.
- Perform data processing and analysis which may include statistical analysis and Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis.
- Perform literature reviews and research, analyze and synthesize information related to low-cost sensor technology, environmental health impacts, air quality policies and regulations, and other environmental topics.
- Prepare reports, briefings, presentations and other materials for dissemination and communications purposes.
- Student in the field of environmental engineering, public health, epidemiology, or other related environmental science programs. Work experience in environmental science, policy analysis, environmental advocacy or related fields is a plus.
- Strong quantitative analysis skills and experience in performing rigorous analyses;
- Strong computer proficiency including Excel, Word and Internet research. Experience with database, GIS software and statistics programs (SPSS, R) preferred.
- Experience translating social and natural science information into public policy;
- Excellent written and oral communication skills;
- Ability to work with colleagues and partners of varied backgrounds and experience;
- Ability to work independently and with a multi-disciplinary team, using independent judgment required to plan, prioritize, and organize pressing workload.