The field of energy encompasses a variety of scenarios. To many the term energy is used simply to refer to fuels. However, energy can be used to denote more than fuels. In reality, energy is associated with a wide array of materials and processes. Sources of energy are varied. The most common non-renewable sources of energy are petroleum, natural gas and coal while some of the renewable sources of energy are based on biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower. In some cases, energy is used to refer to heat which may be used as such or it may be converted to mechanical work and used directly or the work may be transformed to electricity.

Single-layer hybrid DSC device
Single-layer hybrid DSC device

In addition to energy sources, we have energy storage systems such as batteries and hydrogen storage. Solar cells (i.e. photovoltaics) are gaining prominence to produce electricity directly from the sun’s rays. Professors George Demopoulos and Professor Nate Quitoriano are conducting research in this area. For example Professor Demopoulos is looking into nanostructured thin film titania-based, dye-sensitized solar cells as well as nanoscale Li-ion electrodes; meanwhile, Professor Quitoriano is working on multi-junction nanowire solar cells grown on inexpensive substrates, such as SiO2.

In materials processing, as in most processes, considerable quantities of energy are used to heat and transform the materials. These processes should be energy efficient and sustainable. At present, most processes are neither energy efficient nor sustainable. Some of the research we are carrying out is aimed at correcting this situation.

Research is currently being carried out by Professor Frank Mucciardi to develop a heat pipe Stirling engine combination (HP-SE) to Capture, Concentrate and Convert (the 3 C’s) low grade waste heat (i.e. energy) to electricity.Industries produce numerous streams of hot waste gases that are simply vented to the environment. The development of the HP-SE will enable us to recover some of the waste heat with heat pipes and transform it to electricity with Stirling engines.

Professor Kirk Bevan's research group conducts research on several energy themes: next generation Li-ion batteries, photovoltaics, and solar fuels.This research is conducted utilizing both mesoscale and atomic scale materials simulation methods.


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