Development of a New High-Temperature Proton Exchange Membrance for Fuel Cells

Curtis Frank, chemical engineering; Michael Toney, SLAC

This project began the development of a low-cost, high-performance alkaline exchange membrane to replace the conventional water-based membrane for use in fuel cells. Previous alkaline exchange membrane technologies degraded and conducted hydroxide ions poorly. After initial study, this project developed a new membrane material that does not rely on water for proton conduction. The researchers used a copolymer structure composed of water-attracting and water-repulsing micro-sections.

Manufacturable Nanostructured Solar Cells with Efficient Light Trapping and Charge Carrier Collection

Yi Cui, materials science and engineering; Shanhui Fan, electrical engineering

Photovoltaics, which utilizes the largest possible energy source to generate electricity, represents one of the most attractive approaches towards renewable energy future. However, the cost of current solar electricity is still too high. Future photovoltaic technologies need to have high power conversion efficiency and can be fabricated with low cost.

Efficient, Highly Productive Hydrogen Production from Glucose

Cem Albayrak, chemical engineering; Sylvie Long, bioengineering; Phil Smith, chemical engineering; James R. Swartz, chemical engineering and bioengineering

Our long term objective is to develop efficient and cost-effective technology for the production of hydrogen from glucose, xylose, and other cellulosic hydrolysis products. We will use cell-free technology to provide precise control over metabolic fluxes while minimizing the toxic effects of cellulosic byproducts.

AGILE: Axially Graded Index LEns as a non-tracking solar concentrator

Reinhold H. Dauskardt, materials science and engineering; Olav Solgaard and Nina Vaidya, electrical engineering

The constant brightness theorem, says that the optical power flow per unit of area and solid angle cannot be increased though a passive optical system: luminance is invariant. The theorem, although fundamental, is not complete as it is traditionally stated as it is well known that higher brightness can indeed be achieved inside a high refractive index (RI) material, where the diameter of the diffraction limited spot is reduced by the square of the RI of the material.


N. Vaidya, R. Dauskardt, and O. Solgaard, "AGILE: Axially Graded Index LEns as a non-tracking solar concentrator," in Renewable Energy and the Environment, OSA Technical Digest (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2011), paper JWD2.

Next Generation High-Efficiency Low-Cost Thin Film Photovoltaics

Bruce Clemens and Alberto Salleo, materials science and engineering

This research investigates ion-beam assisted deposition (IBAD) of textured templates that can be used to make efficient crystalline-Si thin-film solar cells. The idea behind this approach is that ion beams can be used to selectively determine the crystal orientation of the deposited crystalline films. By means of this technique, one could grow a polycrystalline film with well-aligned grains and therefore “smoother” grain-to-grain interfaces.

Catching Wind by the Tail: Improving Intermittent Power Operations with Sensing, Statistics and Control

Ram Rajagopal, civil and environmental engineering

The project seeks approaches to increase the penetration of wind energy production by decreasing the planning, safety and operating costs due to wind uncertainty for system operators, large farm operators and small local generation operators. We plan to demonstrate that integration of sensing, statistical modeling and control mechanisms enable cost effective high penetration of renewable (wind) energy.

Reducing the Regulatory Barriers to a Transmission Network that Facilitates Renewable Energy Deployment in a Wholesale Market Regime

Stephen Boyd, electrical engineering; Mark Thurber, PESD; Frank Wolak, economics

The research proposed here will develop a quantitative model that seeks to fill these gaps-specifically for the case of the transmission upgrades in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) but in a way that can be generalized to any region with a wholesale electricity market.

GridSpice: A Virtual Platform for Modeling, Analysis, and Optimization of the Smart Grid

Stephen Boyd, electrical engineering; Abbas El Gamal, electrical engineering; Amit Narayan, Smart Grid Research and Modeling; Dan O'Neill, electrical engineering; Benjamin Van Roy, management science and engineering and electrical engineering

The project aims to research and begin prototype development of GridSpice, a software simulation system for modeling, design, planning and optimization of the smart grid. GridSpice will model the interactions between all parts of the electrical network–including generation, transmission, distribution, storage and loads; in addition, it will also model the wholesale and retail electricity markets, and response of consumers to price sensitive contracts.

Analysis and Control of Smart Electrical Distribution Systems

Dimitry Gorinevsky and Sanjay Lall, aeronautics-astronautics and electrical engineering

This research focuses on the development of systems analysis, control, and monitoring technologies for the distribution segment of the electrical grid. This is one of the parts of the grid where there is substantial need and opportunity for technological enhancement. The primary purpose of this research is to address the impact on the system of future distributed renewable generation, storage, demand management, and electric vehicle charging systems. Our approach is based on computational analysis and simulation, making use of dynamical models, statistical inference, and optimization.

Identifying and Mitigating Structural Barriers to Diffusion of Energy-Saving Technologies in the Building Industry

Dana Gavrieli, civil and environmental engineering;  Raymond E. Levitt, civil and environmental engineering; Erica L. Plambeck, Graduate School of Business

Research will: Identify and document the key organizational, inter-organizational, and industry barriers to widespread adoption of energy-saving building technologies; use case studies to document examples of governmental regulations or incentives and corporate strategies that have successfully overcome these barriers; develop preliminary hypotheses about strategic and policy interventions that can overcome these barriers; and prepare and submit one or more proposals for substantial external funding for follow-on research, industry outreach and executive education.