Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE) have announced awards totaling $1,050,000 to support 11 innovative projects in energy and the environment. The awards follow a joint call for research proposals this past spring and will foster research, teaching, and mentorship in energy and the environment.
The awarded projects involve Princeton faculty from numerous academic units including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and the departments of chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology, geosciences, and politics. Two of the 11 projects are jointly funded by ACEE and PEI:
The Climate Futures Initiative
The Climate Futures Initiative (CFI) is an interdisciplinary research center administered by PEI which explores normative and positive approaches to the future of humankind, especially as that future is affected by climate change. The initiative features a wide-ranging dialogue across disciplines and world regions, with considerable attention to ethics. The project includes economists, political scientists, philosophers, and environmental scientists. With this new funding, an interdisciplinary team including Marc Fleurbaey, professor of public affairs and the University Center for Human Values; Melissa Lane, professor of politics; and Robert Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, emeritus, will broaden CFI’s research. One or two new courses will be developed and a seminar series will be expanded. The Peter C. Klosowicz ’76 Fund for Energy and the Environment, the Parallax Fund for Energy and the Environment, and the Sandra Wilson W’56 Fund are the sources of funding for this initiative.
Energy efficient ammonium oxidation: Development of a Feammox electrolysis cell reactor
Peter R. Jaffé, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Daniel Steingart, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, will investigate a Feammox-based wastewater treatment system. Feammox is a newly discovered biological anaerobic ammonium oxidation process that uses iron oxides as an electron acceptor. Funds will be used to support a graduate student and postdoctoral research associate. This project is funded by the de Carvalho-Heineken Family Fund for Environmental Studies, and the Renee and Mark F. Rockefeller ’89 Fund for the Environment, and the Sandra Wilson W’56 Fund.
In addition to these jointly funded projects, PEI and ACEE will separately support a total of nine additional projects. PEI will support the following five research initiatives through the Sandra Wilson W’56 Fund:
Identification of high-methane-emitting abandoned wells in Pennsylvania
Michael A. Celia, professor of environmental studies, Karl Bandilla, an associate research scholar in civil and environmental engineering, Denise L. Mauzerall, professor of environmental engineering and international affairs, and Mary Kang of Stanford University will conduct a combined measurement and modeling study of methane-leaking abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Recent measurements have shown that the total amount being leaked may comprise up to 10 percent of the total anthropogenic emissions for the state. Their research will focus on identifying these “high-emitters,” and may lead to a targeted remediation plan to reduce methane emissions with minimal effort and cost.
Controls on alternative N2 fixation: Consequences for land sequestration of anthropogenic CO2 and biohydrogen production
Anne M. L. Kraepiel, a research scholar in chemistry, and Xinning Zhang, an associate research scholar in geosciences, will study the controls on nitrogen fixation with consequences for long-term storage of anthropogenic CO2 on land, and strategies for biohydrogen production. The study will provide a better understanding of the importance and probable geographical location of alternative nitrogenases in natural environments.
Molecular limitation on the oceanic CO2 pump: The chelation and bioavailability of iron in surface seawater
Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Oliver Baars, a research scientist in geosciences, will study oceanic iron chemistry and the potential changes as the surface ocean warms and acidifies as a result of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. They will culture marine microorganisms utilizing seawater samples from the Southern Ocean, the Equatorial Pacific, and the North Pacific. The project will provide research internships for undergraduate students.
Mapping Earth’s ice mass balance in space and time: Bridging satellite mission gaps
Funding awarded to Frederik J. Simons, associate professor of geosciences, and Christopher Harig, an associate research scholar also in geosciences, will supplement their existing grants to study ice mass loss in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Himalayan mountain regions. The group utilizes dedicated gravity satellites to calculate the weight of ice loss and models the response of the solid-Earth-ice system to global temperature change. This new funding will allow the group to expand their geographical area of study and further analyze trends.
Investigation of abundant but understudied phytoplankton to provide critical data for biogeochemical models
Bess Ward, professor of geosciences, will study marine phytoplankton with the goals of providing data for understanding ocean ecosystem structure and helping predict changes in the ocean that may occur in response to global climate change. Field work will be performed in the Sargasso Sea and the shallow coastal region of the Northwest Atlantic, and laboratory work will be performed at Princeton. Funding will help support graduate student research and expand mentoring opportunities for students.
The Andlinger Center will support the following four research initiatives in addition to the jointly funded projects:
Environmentally benign, low temperature solution processed metal halide perovskite solar cells
Antoine Kahn, professor of electrical engineering, Lynn Loo, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Barry P. Rand, assistant professor of electrical engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, will develop a year-round program for undergraduates to develop fundamental knowledge of a new class of semiconductors with application to solar energy conversion. Students will be exposed to a broad suite of fabrication and characterization tools used for research in electronic materials and devices. Funding for this project comes from the Clifford and Helen Cross Memorial Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, the Nancy A. Curtin ’79 and John Stafford Research Innovation Fund, and the Marathon Company Foundation.
New semiconductor photocatalysts for solar fuel synthesis
Robert J. Cava and Andrew Bocarsly, both professors of chemistry, will investigate new semiconductor-photocatalysts to increase the diversity and efficiency of energy-converting materials while addressing the issue of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. This project has the potential to impact both CO2 remediation and solar fuel production. Proceeds from the Andlinger Innovation Fund will provide support for the project.
Laboratory studies of environmentally friendly foam-driven hydrofracturing
Howard A. Stone, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will study foam-driven fracturing as an alternative to the current processes used in hydraulic fracturing. The use of foams offers significant environmental advantages, including large reductions in the use of water and chemicals. Funding will support graduate students and is provided by the Addy/ISN North American Low Carbon Emission Energy Self-Sufficiency Fund.
In-situ diagnostics and cycle analysis of oxy-combustion for supercritical CO2 power generation
Yiguang Ju, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Tom Kreutz, an energy systems modeler in the ACEE’s Energy Systems Analysis Group, will study natural-gas-fueled supercritical CO2 power cycles. Directly-fired oxy-combustion can efficiently convert fossil fuels to electricity while at the same time greatly facilitate the capture of CO2. This research will lead to unprecedented new capabilities for combustion research at Princeton, including an extreme pressure combustion facility and new experimental methods. Support for this project is provided by the Addy/ISN North American Low Carbon Emission Energy Self-Sufficiency Fund, the Andlinger Innovation Fund, the John Drzik and Ann Thorsell Fund for Innovation, the Parallax Fund for Energy and the Environment, the Ruehl Family Fund for the Environment, and the David P. Simons Fund for Energy and the Environment.