Exploring Creative Energy Solutions

The Duke University Energy Initiative encompasses a wide range of energy-related research activities undertaken by Duke faculty, students, and research staff. These activities range from projects by individual investigators, to projects partnering Duke research units with outside research institutions, corporations and non-governmental organizations. Through this multi-disciplinary approach, the Initiative encourages problem-centered collaborations that draw from the breadth of Duke’s expertise to make progress on our greatest energy challenges. Examples of research include:


Technology, Systems, and Science

Cookstove Research

Associate Professor of public policy Subhrendu Pattanayak is leading a project to see whether millions of coal-burning residential cooking stoves in India might be replaced—improving home air quality and human health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Copper Nanowires

Duke Chemist Ben Wiley and graduate student Aaron Rathmell focus on the production of copper nanowires, whose low-cost, high-performance, and flexibility make them a natural choice for next generation solar cells. In 2011, NanoForge Corp, a company Wiley co-founded to manufacture nanowires for commercial use, was awarded a $45,000 IDEA grant to expand manufacturing operations for the copper nanowires.

Natural Gas in Well Water

Nicholas School of the Environment Professors Rob Jackson and Avner Vengosh recently completed a study that found high levels of thermogenic methane in well water near shale-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania and New York.

Hog Waste to Energy

Duke's carbon offsets program, in partnership with Duke Energy and state and federal agencies, is piloting a system to convert hog waste into electricity. Civil engineering professor Marc Deshusses is evaluating performance of the system, which captures methane that otherwise would have been released to the atmosphere. The partnership is seeking buyers for its carbon credits and is drawing up plans for a system at a larger farm. (View video on page)

Solar Fuels

Duke Chemistry Professor David Beratan, is working with other researchers at the UNC Solar Fuels and Next Generation Photovoltaics Energy Frontier Research Center, conducting research on capturing sunlight and using it to drive solar fuel reactions or photovoltaic devices.


Markets and Finance

Accelerating Energy Innovation

Energy Initiative Director and Nicholas School of the Environment Professor Richard Newell and Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson coauthored a recently published book Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors. The book examines innovation in agriculture, energy, health, semiconductors, computers, and the internet to draw insights on how innovation might be accelerated in the energy sector.

Gallons per Mile

While commuting together in a hybrid car, Fuqua School of Business professors Richard Larrick and Jack Soll got to thinking about expressing fuel efficiency in gallons per mile rather than miles per gallon. Their measures of public perception of efficiency supported a change in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labeling on cars sold in the United States. Read the original article in Science. Visit the MPG Illusion website. (View video on page)

Smart Grid Value Chain

In a recently published report from the Duke Center on Globalization, Governance, and Competitiveness (CGGC), Senior Research Analyst Marcy Lowe, Research Associate Hua Fan, and Director Gary Gereffi explore the value gain of smart grid firms to evaluate its job creation potential. The (CGGC) is built around the use of global value chains methodology to study the effects of globalization on various topics of interest.


Policy and Society

Energy Efficiency and Policy

In a paper accepted at the Energy Journal, Initiative Director and Nicholas School of the Environment Professor Richard Newell and coauthors estimated the impact and cost-effectiveness of utility demand-side management programs for electricity energy efficiency.

Biomass in the South

A computer model created by a Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions researcher, in partnership with North Carolina State University, provides a detailed visual representation of how woody biomass could be used to meet renewable energy targets in the South.