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Sustainable energy systems

Cornell University is committed to being a leader in the field of sustainable development. In addition to the Cornell Energy Institute, several Cornell Centers coordinate efforts in related research and education including the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future and the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute. The Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is a key part of those efforts. With a framework that includes physical, chemical, and biological energy transformations, transport of heat and mass in fluids and solids, materials for energy capture and storage, process analysis, design, and simulation, and full life cycle analysis of energy and mass flows, a chemical engineering education provides the ideal skill set for tackling a wide range of energy problems. 

Energy-related research conducted in CBE has direct applications in:

  • Chemical engineering processing for renewable and cleaner conventional energy extraction, upgrading, and conversion.
  • Fabrication of next-generation solar cells and photochemical converters and batteries and other storage devices from nanoscale building blocks. 
  • Production of energetic materials, fuels, and bioproducts from a wide range of biomass feedstocks ranging from energy crops and algae to agricultural and food wastes, as well as energy production from Earth energy systems including engineered geothermal systems. 

Research Foci of Faculty in Sustainable Energy Systems
Prof. Paulette Clancy's laboratory is one of the leading groups in the country studying atomic- and molecular-scale modeling of semiconductor materials. Her team focuses on prediction and insight regarding the link between material design and properties, allowing them to suggest processing conditions and tailored materials to fulfill a desired set of constraints. Her primary current foci are novel materials for (1) Photovoltaic applications of solar cells and (2) Laser annealing of semiconductors and porous low-k materials. 

Prof. James Engstrom's group focuses in three areas: controlling thing film nucleation in nanoscale electronics using techniques such as atomic layer deposition; organic thin film electronics using in situ real time X-ray synchrotron radiation; and modification and processing of inorganic nanocrystalline materials.

Prof. Tobias Hanrath's research efforts focus on the fundamental study of optoelectronic properties of semiconductor nanocrystals. This work is inspired by the potential application of these materials in solar energy conversion and energy storage devices. The semiconductor nanocrystals used in this work provide a diverse set of building blocks whose electronic and optical properties differ from their bulk counterparts due to the spatial wavefunction confinement. 

Prof. Yong Joo's group has laid a foundation for the utilization of water-based, gas-assisted electrospinning in the development of nanomaterials for energy storage devices. Their current research focuses on (1) Si-rich carbon nanofibers for Li-ion battery anodes, (2) Nanocomposite nanofibers for LIB separators, and (3) Metal oxide nanofibers for Li-air battery cathodes. 

Prof. Donald Koch is known for his contributions to rheology and average transport processes in particle suspensions, porous media, micro- and nano-structured materials, particle-filled polymeric materials and solvent-free nanoparticle fluids. His group studies geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, geothermal energy extraction, and transport processes in batteries. 

Prof. Paul Steen is an expert in the stability of liquid/gas interfaces, flows driven by capillary action, and fluid dynamics of planar flow spin casting. In particular, his group studies heat flow in planar-flow spin casting, a process by which molten metals are rapidly solidified into thin sheets. This process is important in the manufacturing of new metallic glassy materials for application in ultra-efficient solid-state energy conversion devices. 

Prof. Abraham Stroock's lab focuses on manipulating dynamics and chemical processes on micrometer scales. Current efforts in the lab related to sustainable energy include the study and application of mechanisms for manipulating liquids inspired by plants and investigating the fundamental studies of the properties of liquid water at negative pressure. 

Prof. Jefferson Tester's laboratory focuses on three areas: (1) Energy/ Resource Related Problems, such as heat mining processes for geothermal energy extraction and gas hydrates for methane recovery; (2) Environmental, related to destruction of hazardous chemicals in supercritical water, aquifer contamination from migration of wastes, and carbon dioxide capture and sequestration; and (3) Applied Thermodynamics and Kinetics, as in chemical kinetics in supercritical fluids, molecular simulations of condensed matter, properties of aqueous organic and electrolyte mixtures at high temperatures and pressures, and rock-water interactions in hydrothermal environments. 

Prof. Fengqi You's group focuses on process, energy, and environmental systems engineering. Particular research interests lie in (1) Sustainable design and synthesis of energy systems, including biofuels processes, photovoltaics, carbon capture and separation, and shale gas, (2) Systems analysis, modeling and optimization for the water-energy nexus, (3) Sustainable manufacturing, sustainable operations (planning and scheduling) and control of advanced manufacturing systems, (4) Life cycle analysis and optimization of energy, environmental and economic systems, (5) Enterprise-wide supply chain and inventory optimization under uncertainty, and (6) Sustainability analysis of nanotechnology and advanced materials. 

Research Area Faculty

  Name Department Contact
aba6.jpg Anton, A. Brad
Associate Professor
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 375 Olin Hall
607 255-3629
ac222.jpg Center, Alfred M.
Professor of Practice and Associate Director of the M.Eng. Program
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 252 Olin Hall
607 255-3422
pqc1.jpg Clancy, Paulette
Samuel W. and M. Diane Bodman Professor in Chemical Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 362 Olin Hall
607 255-7713
jre7.jpg Engstrom, James R.
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 354 Olin Hall
607 255-9934
th358.jpg Hanrath, Tobias
Associate Professor
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 350 Olin Hall
607 351-2544
ylj2.jpg Joo, Yong L.
BP Amoco/H. Laurance Fuller Professor of Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 340 Olin Hall
607 255-8591
dlk15.jpg Koch, Donald L.
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 250 Olin Hall
607 255-3484
phs7.jpg Steen, Paul H.
Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 346 Olin Hall
607 255-4749
ads10.jpg Stroock, Abraham Duncan
William C. Hooey Director and Gordon L. Dibble ’50 Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 124 Olin Hall
607 255-4276
jwt54.jpg Tester, Jefferson William
Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 2160 Snee Hall
607 254-7211
fy86.jpg You, Fengqi
Roxanne E. and Michael J. Zak Professor and David Croll Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 318 Olin Hall
607 255-1162