Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Activities
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To successfully slash greenhouse emissions, the United States must ensure rural communities benefit from producing solar, wind, biofuels and other low-carbon fuels, panelists said at the annual Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Retreat on June 3. The event, sponsored by Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership (E-ffiliates), the corporate membership program administered by Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, brought together energy modelers, policy researchers, leaders in infrastructure and finance, and community representatives, to discuss how the United States could minimize greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately release into the atmosphere only as much greenhouse gas as is captured and stored each year, a concept known as net-zero emissions. This year’s program explored findings from a Princeton study, Net-Zero America (NZA), released in December 2020, which mapped out five technological pathways for the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and addressed economic, political, technical opportunities and constraints to bringing about a net-zero transition. Read more about the 2021 Retreat here. The 2021 Retreat agenda is available here.
In discussion with nearly 200 researchers, students, and industry representatives who gathered virtually, resilience experts said making the latest climate science accessible to mayors, planners, and local officials is the only way coasts will be able to prepare for sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. At the 2020 E-ffiliates retreat, led by Richard Moss, Gerhard R. Andlinger Visiting Fellow in Energy and the Environment, panelists, including Alice Hill, a senior fellow for climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jainey Bavishi, director of New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, and Skip Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch, said that strengthening the resilience of coastal communities, or the ability to rebound from a disturbance, is urgent. Edward Gray, director of transmission and distribu- tion engineering at PSE&G, spoke to the challenge of passing rate increases to harden infrastructure when the value of avoiding future outages is uncertain and difficult to quantify. Haroon Kheshgi, senior scientific advisor at ExxonMobil Corporate Strategic Research, said localized climate and meteorological data and continually incorporating these new data into existing management systems is important to protecting assets and communities from severe effects. The panelists emphasized that this work requires reducing the information gap between the scientific community and practitioners, a divide that E-ffiliates aims to bridge. Read more about the 2020 Retreat here. The 2020 Retreat agenda is available here.
Princeton University convened an international research team June 11-13 to begin a five-year effort to frame a realistic global response to climate change that accounts for massive economic development in countries, including India and China. The research effort, called Rapid Switch, seeks to identify more viable decarbonization pathways that acknowledge massive ongoing investments in high-emitting energy systems and looks for existing technologies that can reasonably scale to have the greatest positive environmental impact. In a series of reports, the researchers will identify roadblocks and unintended consequences — technological, economic, social and political — that could slow the deployment of more sustainable technologies with an eye to address these potential bottlenecks before they arise. Over 100 experts from academia, government and industry met at the Andlinger Center for the inaugural meeting of the project. Read more about the 2019 Retreat here. The 2019 Retreat agenda is available here.
Research leaders from ExxonMobil, PSEG, American Tower Corporation, and Siemens came together with Princeton University scientists for the annual retreat of the Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, a corporate membership-based initiative administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment focused on facilitating collaboration between industry and Princeton University’s research community. Over the two-day event at The Princeton Club in New York City, Princeton faculty members, researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students talked intensively with industry leaders about new technologies, opportunities to scale up such technology, and what effective partnerships between industry and academia look like in practice. “A thread that connected each of the conversations was an understanding that everyone was there to collaborate,” said Mark Zondlo, associate director for external partnerships at the Andlinger Center. “There was open communication about the challenges that companies and labs face in developing and deploying clean technology, meeting sustainability goals, and using big data to improve performance.” Read more about the 2018 Retreat here. The 2018 Retreat agenda is available here.
“The retreat is a wonderful opportunity to connect researchers and our industrial partners in open, informal dialogue. The ultimate goal is to reach a carbon-neutral world and we need to approach this issue with an all-hands-on-deck mentality that transcends professional borders,” said Emily Carter, founding director of Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE), which administers E-ffiliates, a program that sparks transformational innovations in energy and environmental technologies via close collaborations between academic experts and industry leaders. Read more about the 2017 Retreat here. The 2017 Retreat agenda is available here.
From speculating on the evolution of electric vehicles to technical talks on the outlook for oil and gas and how to realize a carbon-neutral future, faculty, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, students, and industry partners engaged in wide-ranging discussions on energy and its future during Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership’s recent two-day retreat.
“The retreat is a wonderful opportunity to connect researchers and our industrial partners in open, informal dialogue. The ultimate goal is to reach a carbon-neutral world and we need to approach this issue with an all-hands-on-deck mentality that transcends professional borders,” said Emily Carter, founding director of Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE), which administers E-ffiliates, a program that sparks transformational innovations in energy and environmental technologies via close collaborations between academic experts and industry leaders. Read more about the 2016 Retreat here. The 2016 Retreat agenda is available here.
On February 5 and 6, 2015, Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership held the second annual Retreat for corporate members, students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty. The goal of the Retreat was to create an open discussion between students, faculty, and E-ffiliates corporate members around problems that cross-cut industry, academia, and public policy in the fields of energy and the environment. The Retreat featured a mixture of technical sessions with open discussion, a keynote address, a group challenge activity, and a student poster session geared to foster a strong network between Princeton students and E-ffiliates corporate members. The 2015 Retreat agenda is available here.
Second Distributed Energy Valuation Roundtable: Toward Technical, Business, and Policy Solutions
On April 10, 2014, Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership convened a second roundtable discussion on the topic of the valuation of distributed energy and its implications for the grid. The roundtable, “Second Distributed Energy Valuation Roundtable: Toward Technical, Business, and Policy Solutions” brought together a diverse and influential group of stakeholders, including state and federal utility regulators; utility, independent power providers and distributed energy company executives; economists; academicians; and consumer advocates. The workshop resulted in a Summary and Conclusions Paper, which is available here.
On February 8 and 9, 2014, Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership held a retreat for members, and student and faculty collaborators. The goal of the retreat was to create strong connections and an open discussion between E-ffiliates members, students, and faculty around problems that span industry, academia, and public policy. The retreat featured a mixture of technical talks, open discussion, recreational activities, and a poster session. The retreat agenda is available here.
Valuing Distributed Energy: Economic and Regulatory Challenges
On April 26, 2013, Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic of distributed energy and its implications for the grid. The roundtable, “Valuing Distributed Energy: Economic and Regulatory Challenges,” brought together a diverse and influential group of stakeholders, including state and federal utility regulators, utility and distributed energy company executives, a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO), CEOs, economists, engineering and law professors, and environmental and consumer advocates. The workshop resulted in a paper that identifies emerging opportunities for valuing distributed energy: Roundtable Summary Paper.
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Awards
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Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Awards to Advance Energy and Environmental Solutions in 2018
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership (E-ffiliates) has awarded funding for two leading-edge energy and environmental research projects, both focused on optimizing the capture and storage of carbon. One project aims to slash the energy intensity and cost of carbon capture from industrial emissions. The other seeks to identify the ideal managed landscapes to increase carbon storage in soils. Funding for these projects, totaling $255,234, was awarded after a review of proposals by Princeton faculty. The two projects will run from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. Funding is made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, and is intended to promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research in energy- and environment-related fields that can become market-ready solutions.
Details of the two funded projects are provided below.
Lars O. Hedin
George M. Moffett Professor of Biology; Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Chair Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Mengdi Wang, Assistant Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering
Mingzhen Lu, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
A New Computational Technology for Global Optimization of Land Carbon Capture and Storage
It is increasingly evident that keeping global warming below 2°C will be infeasible should we solely rely on the development of sustainable energy systems. “Negative emission technologies”— policies and technologies that aim to remove CO2 from the atmosphere — are critically important if we are going to keep our planet system within a relatively safe boundary. However, current options of negative emission each has its limitations, either by suppressing land needed for agriculture in the case of afforestation and biofuel farming, or risking potentially irrevocable changes of our planet in the case of large-scale geo-engineering. Here we propose a new approach to enhance capture and storage of carbon (CCS) with minimal negative impacts, based on state- of-the-art understanding of plant biophysics, land biogeochemistry and local to global scale mathematical optimization. We propose to initiate a novel collaboration between Hedin’s and Wang’s laboratory groups, with the goal of developing an entirely new approach to the question of CCS. The intellectual dimension of the proposed work will focus on bringing together Hedin’s and Wang’s model approaches, with particular focus on predicting the variation in carbon storage across the global land surface and evaluating optimal management policies.
Claire E. White
Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Synthesis and Characterization of Two-dimensional Calcium Hydroxide Monolayers for Enhanced CO2 Capture
It is becoming increasingly apparent that CO2 capture, utilization and storage will play a role in reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions. However, most CO2 based storage and/or utilization techniques require a pure CO2 source, and therefore economical and robust capture materials are needed to separate the CO2 from mixed gas sources (i.e., flue gas streams from coal, natural gas, cement plants). Here, monolayer Ca(OH)2 will be synthesized via a solvent evaporation process, whereby the monolayer forms from an undersaturated salt solution on an inert substrate. After characterization of the composite using X-ray reflectometry, ellipsometry, X- ray diffraction, and Raman spectroscopy, the gas sorption properties of the monolayer will be quantified, specifically for CO2, N2, CO, H2 and H2O vapor. The results together with a preliminary life cycle assessment will be compared with state-of-the-art capture materials reported in the literature. It is envisioned that this synthesis approach and resulting capture capability of monolayer Ca(OH)2 will lead to the development of a new capture material that is (i) low cost, (ii) selective with respect to various gas molecules, (iii) possesses a high capacity for CO2 adsorption, and (iv) releases CO2 at relatively mild elevated temperatures or exposure to other stimuli.
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Sustainability Energy Research in 2017
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership has awarded funding for two leading-edge energy and environmental research projects, one to develop direct current (DC) power architecture for smart homes, and the other to explore harvesting deep sea methane carbon-neutrally. Funding for these projects, totaling $299,652, was awarded after a review of proposals by Princeton faculty and senior researchers. The two projects will run from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Funding is made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, and is intended to promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research in energy- and environment-related fields that can become market-ready solutions
Details of the two funded projects are provided below.
Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO) Bi-directional DC Power Delivery Architecture for Smart Homes
DC power delivery offers many advantages over ac power delivery in future homes. In this project, we will develop a 10 kW three-phase bi-directional dc power delivery architecture that can achieve very high performance (>96% for ac-dc) and very high power density (>50W/inch3 for grid interface). We will integrate this dc delivery architecture with distributed energy storage and active cooling to demonstrate an “electrical-thermal-storage” hybrid-system.
This architecture creates reconfigurable optimal power delivery paths for multi-input multi-output (MIMO) energy transfer when there exist multiple sources or loads in a sophisticated energy system. The main innovations of this project include: 1) a high performance MIMO magnetic design that is widely applicable to a wide range of applications; 2) a generalized MIMO power control strategy for sophisticated power electronics systems; and 3) an “electrical-thermal-storage” platform for smart homes and buildings.
Chen has extensive experience in developing high performance power electronics. Two other jointly-appointed faculty members at the center, Daniel Steingart, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Forrest Meggers, assistant professor of architecture, are bringing their expertise to the project. Steingart is a pioneering expert in energy storage. Meggers is leading a strong research program in advanced building technologies. A successful implementation of such a platform technology will boost a wide range of innovations in the fields of “smart homes,” “campus-as-a-lab,” and “internet-of-things” at Princeton University.
Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Simultaneous Carbon Dioxide Storage and Methane Harvesting from Hydrate-bearing Sediments
Carbon dioxide sequestration as hydrate in deep-sea sediments, with simultaneous conversion of in situ natural gas hydrates into methane, presents a technology that would lead to an ideally greenhouse-gas-neutral source of energy while overcoming the economic impediment of carbon sequestration.
With recent estimates of methane in hydrate form on the order of ~ 3 x 10^3 trillion cubic meters (TCM) (Boswell et al., 2011), an order of magnitude greater than conventional resources estimated at ~ 3 x 10^2 TCM (Sloan, 2003), naturally occurring methane hydrates represent an enormous clean source of energy for many years to come. Several challenges currently hinder the commercialization of such conversion, mostly tied to the stability of the hydrate and its host sediment, during production and thereafter.
The proposed research, through the development of multi-physics, multi-phase, multi-component simulators, aims at addressing three of the most compelling challenges tied to sediment and hydrate stability, as well as the feasibility of carbon dioxide storage and methane production.
Funding awarded in 2016 supports research on sustainable building dehumidification and psychological intervention
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Sustainable Energy Research in 2016
A novel way to cool and dehumidify buildings, and a mass social media experiment aiming to reduce energy use are two research projects that have received funding from Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership this year. E-ffiliates, a corporate membership initiative of Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, facilitates academic and industrial collaboration, enhances teacher-student-practitioner interactions and promotes technology transfer between Princeton and its corporate partners to address global energy needs and environmental concerns.
Details of the two funded projects are provided below.
Assistant Professor of Architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Reducing Building Energy Demand with Novel Design Integration of Advanced Liquid Desiccant and Nonporous Hydrophilic Membrane
In the United States, 40 percent of the country’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial and residential buildings. At the global scale, the percentage is even higher: 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, directly and indirectly. Looking at the energy consumed by a building, more than half is devoted to heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), with nearly a quarter for air conditioning.
To reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, this project investigates the use of the combination of a novel liquid dessicant (a drying agent) and a hydrophilic (water-loving) membrane to cool and dehumidify buildings. In a small-scale experiment, the liquid dessicant flows inside a tube made up of the hydrophilic membrane. Fresh air that is hot and humid is pumped around the tube, which wicks away moisture from the air and transfers it into the liquid dessicant, producing comfortably dry air for ventilation. This research project seeks to scale up the experiment to cool and dehumidify room-size spaces, where temperature and humidity sensors will track the efficacy of the technology.
When implemented, this technology has the potential of reducing building energy usage while maintaining indoor comfort for hot and humid climate conditions.
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Reducing Energy Consumption with Psychological Interventions
Climate change poses a huge threat to humanity, the environment, and economy. Without significant efforts to curb climate change, the human species is on track to suffer catastrophic worldwide consequences in the near future. An immediate approach to curbing climate change is to reduce household energy usage.
This project proposes using simple, actionable strategies from psychology research to reduce individuals’ energy usage. These strategies would be deployed in specially-made Facebook ads and target energy consumers throughout New Jersey. Energy usage in different regions of the state will be tracked and compared.
Previous studies utilizing these interventions via email on campus saw significant reductions in energy usage from two to five percent. Given that people spend on average an hour and forty minutes on social media per day, this medium should provide an impactful method of delivery, and the data from how ads are perceived can yield insights in human behavior and social media usage. Reducing each individual households’ energy use by even as little as one percent translates to a reduction in carbon emissions of 16 million metric tons annually and an energy cost savings of $143 million a month in the US.
More on the project funding:
Funding for these projects, totaling $263,211, was awarded after a review of proposals submitted by Princeton faculty and senior researchers. The two projects will run from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.
Funding is made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, and is intended to promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research in energy- and environment-related fields that can become market-ready solutions. Previous projects funded through E-ffiliates include the production of advanced biofuels via bioengineered yeasts and the development of a more sustainable version of concrete. More information on past projects can be found here.
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Sustainable Energy Research in 2015
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership has awarded funding for two collaborative faculty-industry research projects. The seed funding was awarded after a review of proposals submitted by faculty in collaborations with industrial researchers and total $273,286. The funded collaborative teams will investigate topics related to energy and the environment: the development of yeast strains, primarily isobutanol, as an advanced biofuel; and building a new device for generating power from the wind by coupling a piezoelectric element to a Helmholtz resonator. Projects run from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.
Funding for these projects, made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, is intended to promote faculty research in energy- and environment-related fields while encouraging interdisciplinary, collaborative research with industry.
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Development of Yeast Strains for Advanced Biofuels Production: Efficient Storage of Renewable Energy
Abstract: Biofuels have the highest stored energy density of all renewable forms of energy. However, ethanol, the dominant first generation biofuel, faces many challenges to be a truly sustainable source of energy. These include its incompatibility with current fuel use and distribution infrastructures, which limits the amount of gasoline it can ultimately replace. In addition, the feed stocks currently used to produce it (mostly corn in the US), have raised serious concerns about the sustainability of biofuels, and the potential to compete with food production. This proposal addresses both of these challenges. It describes specific strategies to develop yeast strains to produce branched-chain alcohols at high yield, primarily isobutanol, which are much better fuels than ethanol, compatible with current infrastructure, and with the potential to replace a larger fraction of gasoline. It also proposes the development of strains and technologies to convert sugars derived from lignocellulosic biomass into isobutanol. Furthermore, it describes a new biosensor that will allow high throughput technologies to accelerate the development of better isobutanol- and isopentanol-producing strains.
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Harvesting Energy Using Piezoelectrics Excited by Helmholtz Resonance
Abstract: This proposal is to build and study a new device for generating power from the wind in collaboration with The Southern Company, a Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership member. The device couples a piezoelectric element to a Helmholtz resonator to create an efficient wind energy collection device. Proof-of-concept experiments have shown that such a resonator can generate up to 6 W/m$^2$ of available energy, and with design optimization this number could dramatically increase. In comparison, conventional wind turbine farms produce at most 5 W/m$^2$. They would appear to be ideal as a small-scale power generation device for remote sensors where battery, solar, or other means of power generation are not available. The ability to power small devices with wind energy would also be a major resource to areas without electricity. It is envisioned that our resonators can be used as an alternative energy source to power the energy needs of a single house, mounted on the roofs of office buildings to augment the local energy needs in city environments, or used in large arrays to enhance the power density of conventional wind farms.
Funding awarded in 2014 supports research on hydrokinetic turbines and large-scale, low-cost storage
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Sustainable Energy Research in 2014
Studying large underwater turbines that capture the kinetic energy of ocean tides and generate electric power, and developing a closed cell zinc bromine battery for low-cost, long-life energy storage are the research projects awarded funding this year by Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership.
Funding for these projects, made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, is intended to promote faculty research in energy- and environment-related fields while encouraging interdisciplinary, collaborative research with industry.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Ocean Energy Market Segment Chief Engineer, Lockheed Martin
Experimental Investigations of Hydrokinetic Turbines at Full Dynamic Similarity
Abstract: A new facility for testing hydrokinetic turbines is proposed. This facility will enable tests of hydrokinetic turbines at full dynamic similarity, which previously have been impossible due to the extreme operating conditions of full-scale hydrokinetic turbines. The new method utilizes an existing high pressure facility in the Princeton University Forrestal campus. By testing the turbines in air at 220 atm all Reynolds numbers involved, as well as the tip speed ratio can be matched to a full-scale hydrokinetic turbine. The investigation will, for the first time, allow comparison of the current computational models used by Lockheed Martin to experimental data. Furthermore, it will allow systematic investigations of common, untested, assumptions related to Reynolds number scaling and rotational effects which form the basis of all existing models and theory.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
President, ICL-IP North America
Closed Cell Zinc Bromine Cells for Large Scale, Low Cost Energy Storage
Abstract: Bromine cathodes are attractive as electrochemical oxidant storage media because they have high energy densities and rate capabilities, combined with long cycle lives. To date, the engineering difficulties of containing and maintaining a stand-alone bromine cathode in a flow battery have prevented wider use of bromine cells. In this project, we use complexed bromine in passively cooled closed cells, leveraging the relative density of bromine to drive gravity-based separation.
We propose a combination of the novel electrochemical cell fabrication capabilities of Princeton with the unparalleled bromine chemistry knowledge of ICL-IP to examine the kinetic and phase behavior of the zinc bromine system in a static context. Preliminary data taken this summer indicates that a static ZnBr2 system can be built for a cost < $50/kWhr if the “self discharge” behavior of Br2 (aq) attacking Zn can be exploited for cell “self maintenance”. By removing the pumps and membranes from a traditional ZnBr2 system, we are removing the majority of the cost and failure points.
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership was founded in 2011 and is administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, in partnership with the Princeton Environmental Institute, the School of Architecture and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Member companies support and participate in research with faculty and students across campus.
Funding awarded in 2013 supports research on New Jersey’s solar power network and the durability of green concrete
Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership Funds Sustainable Energy Research in 2013
Increasing the reliability of New Jersey’s emerging solar power network and improving the durability of an environmentally-friendly type of concrete are among the research projects awarded funding this year by Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership.
E-ffiliates brings together industry and university researchers to tackle problems related to energy and the environment. This year’s grants, awarded after a review of proposals submitted by faculty and industry researchers, totaled $305,600.
“This year’s recipients have effectively leveraged the experiences of their industrial partners to pursue the development of solutions that can sustainably address our energy needs,” said Lynn Loo, the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering and the associate director for external partnerships of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. “From developing green cement technologies to understanding how distributed energy penetrates our energy markets, these projects represent the best of industrial-academic partnerships.”
Energy storage for solar power
The volatility of solar power, which fluctuates according to the availability of sunlight, is one of the greatest challenges facing the expansion of the energy source. For states like New Jersey, which lack access to other sources of renewable energy such as wind or hydropower, finding a way to level the current highs and lows of solar energy supplies is a critical goal.
A team led by Warren Powell, a professor of operations research and financial engineering, will use its grant to investigate the expected dynamics of the New Jersey electricity grid when a high level of solar energy is added to the current mix of sources. The study will examine a network configuration that includes conventional power generation as well as battery storage using a variety of battery chemistries designed for specific needs.
“Unlike non-renewable energy sources, solar power supplies can fluctuate greatly, so the state needs to learn how to blend renewables with the entire portfolio of generators, storage devices, and demand response markets,” Powell said. “We need to better understand how much energy from renewables the grid can handle, and identify the barriers to growth so we can invest in the best solutions.”
The research team, which also includes Daniel Steingart, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and Robert Socolow, an emeritus professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, anticipates that the work will help guide battery research by identifying the economic value of different battery types. It will also use models to provide guidance to policy makers by examining the dynamics of the electricity grid to identify bottlenecks and quantify the costs of increasing solar penetration. The researchers also expect that the analyses will better frame the design for energy storage across the electricity grid.
A new concrete
The manufacture of Portland cement, the key binding agent in concrete, produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases worldwide. A sustainable alternative material, geopolymer cement, produces far less carbon emissions in its manufacture, but there are technical hurdles that must be overcome before its use can become widespread.
Claire White, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, will lead a team investigating how to avoid the development of tiny cracks in slag-based geopolymer concrete. These cracks, which reduce the cement’s durability, are one of the most significant problems for alternative cements.
“Not many people know that concrete is the second-most used resource worldwide after water and that the cement industry is responsible for five to eight percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” White said. “The sustainable cements we are working on reduce CO2 emissions by 80 to 90 percent while producing a product that looks like concrete and performs the same. Our research is addressing the need to understand how these new sustainable cements will behave over the next 50 years, so that they can be successfully implemented in the construction industry.”
The researchers, including White, Satish Myneni, an associate professor of geosciences, and Jeffrey Fitts, a research scholar in civil and environmental engineering, will work with the Zeobond geopolymer concrete company to develop a new type of geopolymer cement by tailoring gel chemistry and additives that limit the formation and propagation of the cracks. To perform the research, the team plans to use a combination of X-ray scattering and electron imaging at extremely small scales (from atoms to microns) to learn the causes of microcracking and to design methods to mitigate the problem.
New generation and the electricity grid
As distributed power generation, such as homeowners’ solar panels, becomes more widespread, it raises questions about the future maintenance and expansion of the electricity grid. Currently, distributed generation owners are paid at the regulated retail rate, which has repercussions for organizations that maintain the wires and other physical components that make up the electricity grid.
Amy Craft, an energy economist at the Woodrow Wilson School, will lead an effort to assess the costs and benefits of distributed generation in comparison with centralized power. The project will also examine alternative regulatory frameworks for the electricity grid. Craft will conduct the research with Scott Jennings, a vice president at PSEG and visiting associate professional specialist at the Andlinger Center.
“The introduction of new types of distributed generation technologies, including renewables, is an exciting development,” Craft said. “But it has potentially negative implications on grid maintenance and expansion without a change in how consumers pay for their electricity. We want to examine who is negatively impacted and to what extent. We also are working to develop better rules and pricing schemes in light of increasing distributed generation on our grid.”
The E-ffiliates program was founded in 2011 and is administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment in partnership with the Princeton Environmental Institute, the School of Architecture and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Member companies support and participate in research with faculty and students across campus.
Funding awarded in 2012 supports research on transforming municipal solid waste into fuel and green cement
Corporate Affiliates Program Funds Innovative Energy Research in 2012
Turning municipal solid waste into fuel and reducing greenhouse gases emitted in making concrete are the first two innovations funded by the recently established Princeton Energy and Environment Corporate Affiliates Program.
The corporate affiliates program, a consortium of industrial partners working with Princeton University researchers to solve problems related to energy and the environment, granted a combined total of $283,000 to the projects. The funding is the inaugural round of grants in what is planned to be an annual call for proposals from interdisciplinary teams of faculty members and industry researchers.
“Solving problems related to energy and the environment requires a mix of academic and corporate perspectives,” said Professor Lynn Loo, leader of the corporate affiliates program. “This program brings together top researchers with diverse professional backgrounds to spur innovative and practical ideas and to create business opportunities.”
A team of researchers led by Christodoulos Floudas, professor of chemical and biological engineering, will use its grant money to investigate a possible method for turning common household garbage into standard liquid fuels such as gasoline, kerosene and diesel. Currently, municipal solid waste is often turned into syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen), which is then burned to make electricity. Floudas’ research would allow for more uses of this syngas, because some or all of it could be turned into liquid fuels instead of electricity.
The work extends previous research Floudas and colleagues have done proposing to make these liquid fuels from other materials, such as coal, natural gas or biomass. Common garbage, known as municipal solid waste, could provide an attractive feedstock for making synthetic fuel because it is cheap. Municipalities pay to have it taken away. However, proving the economic viability of the idea requires knowing more about the key first step of turning the garbage into gas. The corporate affiliates grant will pay for Floudas’ research group to create mathematical models that reveal how the gasification process changes depending on the type of garbage that is fed into it.
“The composition of municipal solid waste varies considerably,” said Floudas, the Stephen C. Macaleer ’63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “We need to find the outputs of the gasifiers as a function of different inputs.”
The team will include a post-doctoral researcher, two graduate students and several undergraduate students as well as researchers from Lockheed Martin, which is a member of the corporate affiliates program and had separately funded previous research by Floudas on synthetic fuels.
Seven percent of the global annual emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide results from the production of cement, most of which is mixed with stone and water to make concrete. A team of Princeton researchers will seek to lower the environmental impact of concrete by using more stone and less cement. Though a seemingly simple idea, the project combines sophisticated mathematical modeling of particle behavior and flow with careful experimentation.
The lead investigator, George Scherer, W.L. Knapp Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is a materials scientist with deep expertise in cements. Scherer will collaborate with Salvatore Torquato of the Department of Chemistry, who is an expert in the way particles pack together when randomly mixed. The team also includes Robert Prud’homme of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, who is an authority in the field of rheology, or the way materials flow.
The work builds on initial research by Torquato and colleagues who discovered a configuration of particles that packs more densely than was previously believed to be possible. The dense packing occurs when particles of two sizes have a specific ratio between their sizes and a certain proportion of small particles to large ones. Funded by the corporate affiliates program, the team will investigate whether screening the stones that go into concrete according to these special proportions would allow much more stone to pack into a space, reducing the space left to be filled with cement.
As a first step, Scherer has assigned an undergraduate student to replicate the dense packing with glass balls to more fully understand how the packing works and testing to see how much leeway there is in the ratios. The group will then move on to adding cement to the glass balls. Finally, the work will test irregularly shaped particles more characteristic of the actual stones used in concrete. The primary goals of the work will be to test the strength of the mixture as well as its ability to flow like a liquid before the cement hardens.
If the experiments succeed, it may be possible to reduce the amount of cement needed by 10 to 20 percent.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Scherer said. “If it doesn’t work, it will be a great educational experience for the students and researchers; and if it does work, it could be a big deal commercially and environmentally.”
The Princeton Energy and Environment Corporate Affiliates Program was founded in 2011 and is administered by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment in close partnership with the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Member companies support and participate in research with faculty and students across campus.