Energy Research Seed Fund awards six grants to Duke University faculty

Posted On:

Tuesday, Apr 09, 2019 - 11:52 am
Ready to grow! We're pleased to announce the Energy Research Seed Fund award recipients for 2019-2020

Research projects that will explore connections between energy and health, improve the performance of renewable energy sources such as solar and thermoelectricity, and expand energy access through innovative and clean methods will receive funding in 2019 from the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund.

The program will award six grants to projects involving 21 faculty members from five Duke schools, investing a total of $215,186 in promising new energy research.

In this—the sixth annual round of funding—the Energy Initiative awarded four seed grants for new interdisciplinary projects and two stage-two grants to support the next phase of promising projects that received prior seed funding from the Energy Initiative.

The first five rounds of funding from the Energy Research Seed Fund totaled $1,243,305. As of fall 2018, those rounds had generated more than three times their value in follow-on awards for Duke research.

“Cross-disciplinary collaboration at Duke has yielded potent opportunities for faculty to tackle significant energy challenges in innovative ways,” observed Energy Initiative director Brian Murray. “It’s so rewarding to support these efforts as they achieve the initial results that propel meaningful progress.”        

The 2019 round of awards is co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering.

Funded Projects in 2019-20

Seed Grants

Building an Experimentally Validated, Atomic-Level Model of Electrochemical Processes.  Improving electrochemical processes in batteries, fuel cells, and chemical reactors is difficult since the models used to describe electrochemical phenomena lack experimental validation and are poorly understood at the atomic level. This project will launch a collaboration between an experimentalist and a theoretician to improve atomic-scale models of these electrochemical processes.
Grantees:
Benjamin Wiley: Chemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering
Volker Blum: Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering and Chemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Engineering Structural and Transport Properties of Quaternary Chalcogenide Semiconductors for High-Efficiency Thermoelectricity. Thermoelectric generators – devices that convert temperature differences directly into electrical energy – have traditionally relied on certain metal compounds for semiconductors. The investigators aim to develop economically viable, non-toxic alternative materials for use in future devices.
Grantees:
David Mitzi: Mechanical Engineering & Material Science, Pratt School of Engineering and Chemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Olivier Delaire: Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering and Physics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Minimizing the Influence of Air Pollution on Solar Energy Production Globally: Framework Development to Save Billions of USD. Air pollution and dust collect on the surface of solar panels, reducing solar energy production by as much as 40% in some regions and accounting for the loss of tens of billions in US dollars annually. This project will develop tools to assess and minimize the impacts of air pollution on solar energy production.
Grantees:
Mike Bergin: Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering and Duke Global Health Institute
Drew Shindell: Nicholas School of the Environment and Duke Global Health Institute
Kyle Bradbury: Energy Initiative and Electrical & Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
David Carlson: Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering; Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; and Computer Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Brian Murray: Nicholas School of the Environment and Energy Initiative
Mark Wiesner: Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering and Nicholas School of the Environment

Powering Health Care: Energy Access, Coping Costs, and Patient Outcomes in Ugandan Health Clinics. Electricity is critical for high-quality health care, but tens of thousands of health facilities globally lack access to reliable electricity, or sometimes to any electricity at all. The project team will undertake a comprehensive survey of 935 public health clinics throughout Uganda, assessing electricity access, reliability, affordability, and safety.
Grantees:
Robert Fetter: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Tony Fuller: Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine and Duke Global Health Institute
Michael Haglund: Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine; Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine; and Duke Global Health Institute
Marc Jeuland: Sanford School of Public Policy and Duke Global Health Institute
Jonathan Phillips: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Stage-Two Grants

Creating Super Absorbers for Solar Energy Capture and Conversion: Theoretical Design, Synthesis, and Characterization. The cost and efficiency of solar energy conversion depends on how effectively molecular structures harvest light. This project will build upon results obtained under a previous round of seed grant support to pursue discovery of new materials with much greater light absorption than current materials.
Grantees:
David Beratan: Chemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; Biochemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; and Physics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Michael Therien: Chemistry, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

So the Dam Doesn’t Break: Understanding Sustainability of Microhydro Electric Grids in Nepal. This project will build on lessons garnered from a previous round of seed grant support to conduct a survey of microhydro plant sites in Nepal and better understand how competing ownership and governance approaches affect microhydro plants’ success.
Grantees:
Robyn Meeks: Sanford School of Public Policy and Energy Initiative
Dalia Patiño-Echeverri: Nicholas School for the Environment
Subhrendu K. Pattanayak: Sanford School of Public Policy; Duke Global Health Institute; Nicholas School for the Environment; and Economics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Erik Wibbels: Political Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences



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