Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project awards $8.4 million to develop innovative energy technologies

GCEP has awarded $8.4 million to researchers from Stanford to develop innovative technologies that address global climate change.

Mstroeck / Wikimedia Commons View from inside a carbon nanotube

Stanford engineer Zhenan Bao and colleagues received a GCEP award to develop solar cells made of carbon nanotubes and other carbon-based nanomaterials.

The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University has awarded $8.4 million to seven Stanford research teams to develop new technologies that could significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"These awards support fundamental research on a broad range of potentially game-changing energy technologies – from an all-carbon solar cell to a soot-free diesel combustion process," said GCEP Director Sally Benson, a research professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford.

The awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 93, with total funding of approximately $113 million for research since the project's launch in 2002.

The following seven research programs will be led by 11 investigators from the Stanford School of Engineering and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory:

Improved solar energy conversion: To make photovoltaic cells more efficient, the researchers propose creating a new kind of electrode that converts photons from low-energy to high-energy states. Investigators: Jennifer Dionne and Alberto Salleo, Materials Science and Engineering (MSE).

Sootless diesel: Researchers are developing a novel technology that transforms diesel combustion into a clean, highly efficient process that emits no soot. Investigator: Chris Edwards, Mechanical Engineering.

Hydrogen production from glucose: The goal is to develop a new chemical process to convert sugars derived from plants into hydrogen, which can then be used as a clean-burning substitute for natural gas. Investigator: James Swartz, Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

High-power batteries for the electric grid: Researchers propose a new family of inexpensive, long-life, high-power batteries to address the challenge of intermittent renewable energy on the electric grid. Investigators: Robert Huggins, MSE; and Yi Cui, MSE and Photon Science/SLAC.

Methane from microbes: The research team is designing a "living" fuel cell that uses bacteria and other microbes to convert electricity and carbon dioxide into methane gas. Investigator: Alfred Spormann, Chemical Engineering/Civil and Environmental Engineering.

New materials for energy conversion applications: The goal is to identify new thermally and chemically stable nanomaterials that efficiently convert heat into electricity. Investigators: Roger Howe, Electrical Engineering; Jens K. Nørskov, Chemical Engineering and Photon Science/SLAC; and Piero Pianetta, Electrical Engineering and Photon Science/SLAC.

Carbon solar cells: The goal of the proposal is to design and build photovoltaic cells made of carbon-based materials. Investigator: Zhenan Bao, Chemical Engineering.

"Silicon has been the dominant material used in the solar cell industry for decades," said Bao, associate professor of chemical engineering. "This GCEP award will allow us to begin developing new types of solar cells made primarily with carbon nanomaterials, which are extraordinary electron transporters and ideal for capturing the full solar spectrum – from visible light into the near infrared."

GCEP is an industry partnership that supports innovative research on energy technologies that address the challenge of global climate change. Based at Stanford, the project includes five corporate sponsors – ExxonMobil, GE, Schlumberger, Toyota and DuPont.

"We are very pleased to announce the latest round of awards to leading members of the Stanford faculty," said Schlumberger Vice President Rod Nelson, the chair of the GCEP management committee. "These seven programs exemplify the kind of high-risk, high-reward energy research that has become the hallmark of the GCEP partnership."

Sally Benson, Global Climate and Energy Project: (650) 725-0358,

Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy: (650) 723-9296,

Maxine Lym, Global Climate and Energy Project: (650) 725-3228,

Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965,