Research Activities at UD
ENERGY CENTERS AND PROGRAMS AT UD
The University of Delaware conducts cutting-edge, world class research in a wide variety of energy-related fields through its centers and departments. The Energy Institute is involved in integrating and enhancing these various endeavors. Prominent University research units and areas include:
The CCEI, established in 2009, is among the 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). It represents UD’s single largest stimulus award - $17.5 million - and is one of the very few externally funded centers on heterogeneous catalysis. The CCEI builds upon the long tradition of the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST) at the University of Delaware and is a collaboration involving multiple partner institutions and national labs (University of Pennsylvania, Caltech, University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts, Lehigh University, Brookhaven National Labs, University of North Carolina, and University of Southern California). A tremendous asset of CCEI is the profound level of expertise and talent of the 20 or so faculty and the excellence of its graduate students and postdocs.
The CCEI is involved in the development and utilization of heterogeneous catalysis to enable more efficient, less energy intensive chemical transformations. The focus of CCEI is to develop new technologies for converting grasses and trees into electricity and fuels. Specifically, its research drives the science and technology that can lead to the conversion of cellulosic (non-food based) biomass and its derivatives to fuels, chemicals, and electricity.
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CCPI, administered by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, is involved with scientific research on power from fluid flows in the environment along with evaluating technical methods to convert, transmit and store that power, and conducting policy analysis of rules to integrate those sources into today’s policy and planning processes.
Research is concentrated in the physical oceanography of the coastal region, geophysical power resources in the offshore area (mainly wind and ocean currents), and marine and public policy of such resources. The research conducted by this group has shown that the Mid-Atlantic Bight of the US (the aquatic region extending from Massachusetts to North Carolina), up to a water depth of 100m and avoiding "exclusion zones", has the potential to produce 330 GW of power from offshore wind resources. This is more than enough to meet the 185 GW requirements for vehicles, electricity and heating demands for this region. It is estimated that such a switch to offshore wind power would reduce CO2 emissions by 68% from this region as well as result in a decrease in emissions of other pollutants.
Researchers at the CCPI are also leaders in the evaluation of technical methods of the storage needed to support large-scale carbon-free power systems. They have been involved in the development of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems in which the battery of a parked electric-propulsion vehicle can be plugged into a utility network to not only charge the vehicle’s battery but also be used as a big storage system from which the utility can draw power. The energy for charging the vehicle battery can come from electricity from any source but would derive the greatest environmental benefit if it came from a renewable (i.e. wind) source.
Professor Willett Kempton is the Director of CCPI and in active in these endeavors. He began developing the V2G technology more than a decade ago and now is testing a new prototype plug-in electric vehicle. Professor Kempton was one of the first recipients of a grant from Google.org’s RechargeIT program which is designed to accelerate the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
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CEEP is a leading institution for graduate education, research, and advocacy in the development of policy that addresses the intersection of the energy and environmental fields. Established in 1980, the CEEP addresses research topics such sustainable energy development, prospects for wide-scale use of solar, wind, and hydrogen energy technologies, community-scale energy planning, electricity planning and policy issues, and the potential for energy conservation and efficiency in reducing dependency on conventional energy sources. Another CEEP activity is the Global Environments Program which addresses problems that require an international response because they have global causes. The most notable of these issues in terms of energy is climate change. The Center is active in studying the role of energy in climate change and in developing climate change policy. The Center was the first to offer graduate degrees in the U.S. specifically in the field of Energy and Environmental Policy. It currently has over 75 graduate students from 20 countries enrolled in its master's and PhD programs.
CEEP has also helped to launch a new Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) that paves the way for our transition to the new green economy. Dr. John Byrne, Director of CEEP, is a principal developer of this initiative. National recognition of the SEU was acknowledged by John Podesta from the Center for American Progress (former chief of staff for the Clinton Administration) who cited it as a showcase model to lead the country in achieving a clean energy economy and a growing green workforce. For more information on the SEU, click here.
Professor John Byrne serves as Director of the CEEP and Distinguished Professor of Public Policy. He is an international expert in the area of environmental and energy policy and has conducted research in sustainable energy systems, climate change, and the social and environmental implications of significant changes in the world energy system. He is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1992, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
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CFCR was formed to improve the understanding of fuel cell processes and encourage interactions and collaborations with industries involved in fuel cells and hydrogen infrastructure activities.
Fuel cells offer the potential to overcome some of the major concerns relating to our current energy activities including dependence on petroleum imports, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. The research conducted at the CFCR includes transport phenomena, water management, materials characterization, durability and development of novel catalysts, membranes, gas diffusion layers and reactant flow fields, for automotive and portable electronics applications. Research is also underway exploring renewable methods to generate hydrogen using solar-powered thermochemical cycles.
The University of Delaware is also home to the UD Fuel Cell Bus Program which is involved with developing a fuel cell powered transit vehicle. The University received its first fuel cell bus in April 2007 with additional buses due in 2008 and 2009. The current bus runs from 10 a.m. to noon on campus and is refueled at a hydrogen filling station at Air Liquide south of Newark.
Professor Ajay Prasad is the Director of the Center for Fuel Cell Research and also leads the UD Fuel Cell Bus Program.
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IEC was founded in 1972 and is a US Department of Energy University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaics Research and Education. IEC was the first laboratory to achieve 10 percent conversion efficiency with thin film solar cells and demonstrate the viability of roll-to-roll processing for terrestrial photovoltaics (PV). The goals of IEC are to advance fundamental science and engineering to improve PV device performance, develop processing technologies, and transfer these results to large-scale manufacturing. These activities are carried out by a multi-disciplinary research team of permanent professional and technical staff, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and post doctoral fellows. IEC educates masters and doctorate level graduate students from Materials Science, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Physics. This provides a highly trained supply of students for the US PV industry, enabling the rapid transfer of technology.
IEC actively participates in funded and collaborative research programs with national laboratories, industry and universities. In recent years, IEC has received direct support from over 30 US PV companies to assist their technology development and commercialization activities. IEC participates on more DOE Solar America Initiative programs than any other organization as the lead on three programs and a collaborator on four industry lead programs.
Specific capabilities and strengths of IEC include:
- Deposition of semiconductor, metal and oxide thin films
- Electrical, optical and structural characterization of films and devices
- Development and optimization of device fabrication processes
- Design, construction and operation of deposition systems
- Chemical reaction and reactor analysis applied to thin film processing
- Accelerating environmental aging and stability facilities
- Professional staff of world-recognized experts having collectively over 225 man-years of experience
- Unique equipment for pilot-scale deposition of thin film semiconductors
Professor Robert Birkmire serves as Director of IEC. He is an international expert in thin film photovoltaic technologies and has conducted extensive research in the growth and characterization of thin film semiconductors and devices for photovoltaic applications.
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CCST, founded in 1978, conducts pioneering, multidisciplinary research in the scientific and engineering principles of catalysis. The Center has pioneered multidisciplinary research in the scientific and engineering principles of catalysis, the process by which the rate and products of chemical reactions are altered by a substance, which remains unchanged by reaction. It has been estimated that catalysis-based processes represent 90% of current chemical processes and generate 60% of today's chemical products. Thus, innovations and improvements in such processes can yield significant energy savings and environmental benefits. Catalysis is an important enabling science for the development of novel, alternative energy resources and technologies. The center encompasses a number of research programs that target development of catalysts and processes for alternative and renewable fuels and improvement of commercial processes.
The main energy-related areas of research of the CCST are:
- Catalysis and reaction engineering for biofuels and renewables
- Reforming of biomass based chemicals and hydrocarbons
- Reaction mechanisms for fuel and biofuel processing
- Advanced synthesis and characterization of catalytic materials for energy research
- Hydrogen technologies including production and storage
- Membrane science and technology - oxides, zeolites, metal films
- Selectivity including partial oxidation and hydrogenation
- Process intensification - microchemical systems, energy management
- Alternative fuels (e.g., NH3 cracking)
- Fuel cell research including methods to make hydrogen fuel cells less costly and more stable by using materials such as tungsten carbide.
- Photoelectrochemical cells
Professor Dion Vlachos serves as the director of the CCST. The Center includes twelve faculty members among the departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Materials Science & Engineering.
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SPP, part of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, is revolutionizing the way electricity is provided, allowing economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable distributed energy systems using photovolatics. Integration of materials, devices, and concepts into high-performance affordable photovoltaic devices, microsystems, and systems, will generate new solar cell-related technologies that do away with cost and performance constraints of existing technologies which make use of only a single material and lack a systems approach. Research activities include advanced concept solar cells including quantum dot and quantum well solar cells, InGaN solar cells, ultra-high efficiency solar cell concepts, high efficiency silicon solar cells, solar cells using unconventional materials, hybrid photovoltaic/hydrogen systems and photovoltaic and solar hydrogen systems.
The High Efficiency Solar Power Program (HESPP) is a major component of the research carried out in the SPP. To achieve high efficiency at low cost, UD researchers are using a new very high performance crystalline silicon solar cell platform and then adding multiple innovations. An important new feature is based on novel approaches to the integration of the optical, interconnect and solar cell design to provide for affordability and also flexibility in the choice of materials and the integration of new technologies as they are developed.
The HESPP is also part of a consortium led by UD (and funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell program) to develop and produce 1,000 Very High Efficiency Solar Cell prototypes that are affordable and that operate at efficiencies of about 54 percent in the laboratory and 50 percent in production. Currently, high-end solar cells operate at a peak efficiency of 24.7 percent, and solar cells off the production line operate at 15-20 percent efficiency.
A key part of the project is not just developing high efficiency solar cells but making the transition from the laboratory to production and the marketplace.
Professor Allen Barnett is Executive Director of the HESPP and Program Manager and Principal Investigator for the DARPA Very High Efficiency Solar Cell program.
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Researchers in the DPA are active in developing novel magnetic materials (including nanocomposites) to produce magnets with high energy and power density properties. Magnets are being created that are smaller and more powerful and which can be used in place of mechanical systems thereby increasing energy efficiency. Applications include motor vehicles (including hybrids), refrigeration, magnetic levitation trains, energy storage systems, and wind turbines.
Research is also being conducted in methods to improve the efficiency of electric motors which currently consume more than 60% of all electrical energy produced. Areas of study include supercapacitors, nanostructured materials, and spintronics.
The DPA is chaired by Professor George Hadjipanayis who also is the founder and Director of the Consortium for Advanced Magnets.
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The Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU)
The SEU, designed in large part by Professor John Byrne, Director of CEEP, is an innovative model which is designed to serve the sustainable energy needs of all households and businesses. As a non-profit, the SEU provides a comprehensive package of sustainable energy services that includes high efficiency technologies and appliances, expansion of weatherization services, and implementation of customer-sited renewable energy such as rooftop photovoltaic systems. The SEU has been described as “perhaps the most comprehensive energy savings and distributed renewables program in the United States” by the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The SEU has been internationally recognized as well. The April 2009 special issue of The Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society is devoted to implementation of the SEU in Asia, Africa and Europe. Currently, the cities of Daegu and Seoul, South Korea and the nation of Bermuda are pursuing its establishment.
The first state level SEU was established by the Delaware State legislature in 2007. The mission of the SEU is to deliver affordable efficiency and renewable services along with significant reductions in CO2 emissions. In Delaware, the SEU is projected to reduce the state’s emissions by 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2020, or 33% of the State’s current carbon footprint. The first urban SEU was created by Washington, D.C. in 2008. Since then, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter has cited the SEU as “a great idea” that his city can utilize for “engaging in the needed changes at all levels of government” and in support of Green Jobs and an “Earth-friendly approach to sustainability.”
Read about Philadephia Mayor Nutter's visit March 12, 2009 Trabant Center, UD
Many actions will be needed to address the problem of global warming,” Dr. Byrne notes. In this effort, “the SEU can be an important tool”.
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