The Andlinger Center has awarded funding for five collaborative faculty research projects through the Andlinger Innovation Fund. An interdisciplinary faculty committee selected the five winning projects from a competitive field of applicants, awarding up to $100,000 in seed funding to each team. Faculty will investigate a wide variety of topics related to energy and the environment, including elastic structures for energy efficient architecture, new diagnostic methods of biofuel combustion, tropical cyclone risk assessment, the role of metals as fertilizers, and the solid electrolyte interphase layer of batteries. Projects will begin in the winter of 2013 and last for one year.
Funding for these projects is made possible through a gift from Gerhard R. Andlinger ’52, intended to support faculty research in new topics and encourage collaboration among Princeton scientists, engineers, and industry. Two projects were funded in 2012 and four projects were funded in 2011.
Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Assistant Professor of Architecture
Title: Elastic structures for energy efficient architecture
Abstract: Current structural design theory holds that excessive elastic deformations are undesirable in architectural structures. Our study challenges that philosophy with the hypothesis that elastic deformations, found in complex plant movements, can be successfully scaled up as a shape-shifting strategy for lighter and mechanically less complex shading modules. If this premise is substantiated, we will make a significant leap in fundamental engineering knowledge in the area of energy-efficient architecture. Being lightweight, these modules will bring along lower economic and environmental cost for manufacturing, transportation, maintenance, and actuation energy. Current deployable structures rely on technical hinges, and costly and fragile actuation. By contrast, plants rely on the flexible, elastic properties of mostly one organ to move. In addition they need few and small actuation forces. Without exactly imitating the plant motion, the research goal of this project is to identify shape-shifting, scaling and structural laws behind these elastic phenomena as drivers for innovation in energy-efficient architecture.
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Director of the Program in Sustainable Energy
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
Title: New multispecies diagnostics and elementary rate constant measurements in biofuel combustion
Abstract: More than 80% of the world’s energy is produced from combustion of fossil fuels. Future engines must use biofuels and operate at higher pressures to achieve better efficiency and reduce emissions. High pressure combustion increases the importance of HO2 reaction pathways and biofuels tend to form more CH2O and HO2 at low engine temperatures. Direct diagnostics of HO2 in combustion is challenging and has not yet been successful. The goal of this research is to develop a new, in-situ, multispecies diagnostic probe of HO2, CH2O, and OH and to measure key elementary rate constants of HO2 reactions with dimethyl ether, biodiesel, and fuel radicals in biofuel combustion by using mid-IR absorption and Faraday rotation spectroscopy in a plasma assisted flow reactor. The success of this research will be a game changer in the quantitative evaluation of combustion kinetics and reduction of CO2/CH2O emissions in biofuel combustion.
Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School
Frederick L. Moore ’18 Professor of Finance; Professor, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering; Chair, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering; Director, Committee for Statistical Studies
Title: Tropical cyclone risk assessment with application to a reliable and sustainable energy future
Abstract: Impacts of Hurricane Sandy (2012) demonstrate again that tropical cyclones (TCs) threaten U.S. energy security, and their destructive potential is likely to further increase due to greenhouse-gas-induced climate change. The potential impact of TCs has not been considered effectively in the design and maintenance of the energy system. Sandy revealed the vulnerability of our current energy grid and the urgent need to rebuild the energy system that takes full account of future TC risk. However, TC risk has been very difficult to estimate due to data limitations and nonstationarity induced by climate change. We have identified that the key to solving the problem is fully coupling state-of-the-art TC and climate science with extended datasets. Therefore, this project will integrate expertise in relevant science, statistics, and policy at Princeton to develop a new physically-based probabilistic TC risk model. The risk model will be applied to predict future TC damage and disruption to coastal energy infrastructure, particularly for NYC, as well as to investigate the uncertain impacts of energy production on climate extremes.
Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences
Research Scholar, Chemistry
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Title: A new method for assessing the role of metals as fertilizers for nitrogen fixation in terrestrial ecosystems
Abstract: The production of nitrogen fertilizers consumes a substantial fraction of global fossil energy use and their large-scale application leads to extensive pollution of aquatic systems. A more efficient and less polluting approach to improve crop yields requires fostering biological N2-fixation in situ. The biological reduction of N2 to NH3 is catalyzed by three forms of the nitrogenase enzyme, each with different metal cofactors: iron and molybdenum, iron and vanadium, or iron only. N2-fixation is commonly measured by the acetylene reduction assay (ARA), which quantifies the extent or reduction of acetylene to ethylene by nitrogenase. Based on successful preliminary experiments, we propose to develop a technique to quantify the activities of the different nitrogenases, by measuring the 13C enrichment factor of ethylene produced in ARA. Eventually this new method may be applied to natural ecosystems and cultivated lands, to establish the role of key trace metals for nitrogen fixation in areas of interest, and develop site-specific fertilizer formulations and applications for optimizing biological N2-fixation.
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Title: In situ high resolution studies of the solid electrolyte interphase layer
Abstract: A nanoscopic byproduct of the assembly and structure of high energy density batteries determines the ultimate cycle life (and sustainability) of the system. The solid electrolyte interphase layer (SEI) is a passivation layer that forms on either the assembly of a battery with a largely reducing metal (lithium and aluminum), or the first charge of an active ion battery of sufficient reducing power. Using LEEM and STM, we will directly observe the formation of the SEI layer as a function of composition and impurity concentration with heretofore unrealized time and structural precision, and we will begin an econometric analysis of the failure of lithium ion batteries to determine how usage patterns in different existing cells affect the long term stability (and thereby the ultimate effective lifetime) of the SEI.