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Global Climate and Energy Project awards $7.6 million for innovative energy research

Credit: Antii Eskeli, industrial designer
CO2 Chemistry flask image
The car of the future could be made with durable plastics instead of glass and metal. Professor Reinhold Dauskardt received GCEP funding to develop a technology that enables the widespread use of lightweight polymers for aerodynamic vehicles.

The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford has awarded $7.6 million for research on advanced energy technologies for industrialized countries and the developing world. The funding will be shared by six research teams at Stanford and three other universities.

"The four Stanford projects funded this cycle could have a significant impact on the future development of solar energy, clean fuels and the automotive industry,” said GCEP Director Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering. "We have also funded two special projects outside of Stanford that could lead to the wide-scale deployment of solar and biofuel technologies in developing countries around the world."

GCEP has awarded more than $177 million for energy research and other technical activities since the project's launch in 2002. 

"These new awards reflect the importance of a global approach to energy research," said GCEP management committee member Peter Trelenberg, manager of environmental policy & planning at ExxonMobil. "To be truly transformative, new energy technologies must be made available to people in industrial and developing countries alike."

Stanford awards

The following Stanford faculty members will receive funding to develop solar technologies for the production of electricity, lightweight materials for vehicles and techniques for generating biofuels made from carbon dioxide and Earth-abundant minerals.

Transportation vehicle light-weighting with polymeric glazing and mouldings. The researchers will use a novel glazing process to create lightweight polymer materials to replace conventional glass windows and metal frames in vehicles. The durable plastics could save energy by reducing vehicle weight and improving aerodynamic design. Investigator: Reinhold Dauskardt, professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Solar thermophotovoltaics: Improving the efficiencies of emitters and narrow band-gap photovoltaic cells. The goal of the project is to develop a high-efficiency solar device that converts waste heat into usable infrared light for the production of clean electricity. Investigators: Professors Shanhui Fan and James Harris, Electrical Engineering; Professor Mark Brongersma, Materials Science and Engineering.

Integrated electrochemical-biological systems for the production of fuels and chemicals from CO2. The goal of this project is to improve the microbial production of biofuels with electrocatalysts that feed the microorganisms a steady supply of CO2, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Investigators: Alfred Spormann, professor, Chemical Engineering/Civil and Environmental Engineering; Thomas Jaramillo, associate professor, Chemical Engineering.

Carbonate-catalyzed CO2 hydrogenation to multi-carbon products. The research team will test whether carbon dioxide (CO2) and water can be chemically converted into renewable fuels using Earth-abundant carbonate salts instead of metal catalysts and conventional solvents. Investigators: Matthew Kanan, assistant professor, and Todd Martinez, professor, Chemistry.

Energy for developing countries

In 2013, GCEP issued an international request for proposals on advanced energy technologies for developing countries. Of the 18 full proposals submitted from around the world, two have been awarded funding:

Low-cost photovoltaics by electrodeposition of silicon p-n junctions. The research team will develop a novel, inexpensive approach to the production of crystalline silicon solar cells, with the goal of making photovoltaic technology affordable and widespread in developing countries. Investigators: Alan Bard and Edward Yu, University of Texas-Austin; Donald Sadoway, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Robust microalgal production strains for high-yield growth on fossil-flue gas: Toward cost-effective biofuels and CO2 mitigation. Using genetic engineering, researchers will identify strains of algae capable of producing large quantities of biofuel by metabolizing CO2 captured from industrial smokestacks. Deployed at scale, the resulting technologies could have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants in developing economies. Investigator: G. Charles Dismukes, Rutgers University.

GCEP is an industry partnership that supports innovative research on energy technologies to address the challenge of global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The project includes four corporate sponsors: ExxonMobil, GE, Schlumberger and Bank of America.

Mark Shwartz writes about energy technology for the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.

February 2, 2016


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