Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis


In a recent New York Times article Professor Harry A. Atwater, Jr. discussed the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). He said, “The grand prize is figuring out how to make carbon dioxide be recyclable, a renewable resource. That would be a millennial advance for society.” JCAP was established in 2010 as a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that aims to find new and effective ways to produce fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. “You can rest assured that the energy and catalysis problems of humanity will not have been resolved five years from now,” Professor Atwater said in the interview. But there is growing interest in the work, particularly after the recently signed Paris climate treaty that calls for sharp emissions reductions to combat global warming. “We have some wind at our back that we haven’t had until recently,” he added. [New York Times article]

Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater JCAP

Caltech’s Smart Charging Network for Electrical Vehicles


Charging electric vehicles (EVs) can require a substantial amount of electricity (most EVs charge at 7 kilowatts, the equivalent of simultaneously running 70 desktop computers). Steven Low, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, has developed Caltech's adaptive charging network, which uses a smart algorithm to coordinate the charging schedule with the Institute's existing electrical infrastructure. This program helps minimize energy usage and about 30 percent of the electricity at each charging station is from carbon-free renewable sources. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE energy research highlights CMS Steven Low

Electrical Vehicle Design and Racing


The students in the CS/EE/ME 75 class, Introduction to Multidisciplinary Systems Engineering, invited industry experts to their midterm design review on the evening of February 11, 2016. The students are currently in the manufacturing phase and plan to finish the vehicle frame this week and attach the mounting brackets shortly thereafter. They aim to have a running prototype electrical vehicle by mid-March to get early testing data before refining their design for the upcoming Formula SAE competition. The course is co-taught by Professors Guillaume Blanquart, Azita Emami, and Richard Murray as well as the Executive Director for the Resnick Institute, Neil Fromer. Several students in the course are also members of the Caltech Sustainable Vehicle Club led by undergraduate student Robert Anderson. [Huffpost Education Blog]

Tags: EE energy MCE CMS Guillaume Blanquart Richard Murray Rob Anderson Azita Emami Neil Fromer

Solar Powered, Electrochemical, Wastewater Treatment System


Cody Finke, Environmental Science and Engineering graduate student, and Justin Jasper, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, are the runner ups for the Dow Resnick Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) at Caltech. They have been working Professor Michael Hoffmann to enhance a modular, solar powered, electrochemical, on-site wastewater treatment system created by their group for toilets in the developing and developed world. With an operating cost of less than 5 US cents per day, this wastewater treatment technology meets benchmarks for affordability in the developing world. It also has the potential to protect human health and ecosystem well-being in communities most at risk to disease and resource-loss through environmental pollution. [Resnick Institute story]

Tags: honors energy research highlights health ESE Michael Hoffmann Cody Finke Justin Jasper

Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure


Caltech’s smart grid team led by Professors John DoyleSteven Low, and Adam Wierman along with their collaborators have been awarded $3.9 million for an Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) Network Optimized Distributed Energy System (NODES) project entitled "Real-time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure."  NODES is ARPA-E’s new program focused on enabling more than 50% usage of renewable power on the grid. The Caltech team will develop a comprehensive distribution network management framework that unifies real-time voltage and frequency control at the home/distributed energy resource controllers’ level with network-wide energy management at the utility/aggregator level. [Learn more]

Tags: EE energy CMS Adam Wierman John Doyle Steven Low

A Winning Sanitation Solution


The inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Professor Michael Hoffmann, have a new award winning project. Project Seva, which means "service" in Hindi. It was named the first place winner of the Vodafone's Wireless Innovation program. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems' parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world's people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. [Caltech story]

Tags: energy research highlights ESE Michael Hoffmann

Space Solar Power Initiative


Caltech and Northrop Grumman Corporation have signed a $17.5 million sponsored research agreement for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). The initiative will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. "The Space Solar Power Initiative brings together electrical engineers, applied physicists, and aerospace engineers in the type of profound interdisciplinary collaboration that is seamlessly enhanced at a small place like Caltech... We are working on extremely difficult problems that could eventually provide the world with new, and very cost-competitive technology for sustainable energy,” said EAS Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech story] [Northrop Grumman Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights GALCIT Harry Atwater Ares Rosakis Ali Hajimiri Sergio Pellegrino

Undergraduate Wins Prestigious Student-Athlete Honor


Rob Anderson, a junior on the Caltech men's basketball team, has been named to the 2015 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team. Anderson, who is studying mechanical engineering and business economics and management, was selected for his extensive work researching and designing sustainable energy projects. "After the Solar Decathlon ended in autumn of 2013, I began looking for another engineering sustainability project," Anderson says. "I noticed there were a few empty gas-engine go-karts in Fleming and I realized I could re-engineer them to use electric power… That's basically how the Sustainable Vehicle Club was born.” [Caltech story]

Tags: honors energy MCE Solar Decathlon Rob Anderson

Postdoctoral Scholar Receives Dissertation Award From American Physical Society


Moureen C. Kemei, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar in Applied Physics & Materials Science, has recieved the American Physical Society's Richard L. Green Dissertation Award in Experimental Condensed Matter or Condensed Matter Physics. The award recognizes her outstanding thesis on "Magnetostructural and Magnetodielectric Coupling in Spinel Oxides" citing her achievement in employing advanced characterization tools to gain new insights into the structure and electronic properties of magnetic materials and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathode materials. The exploration of SOFC cathode materials is the focus of Moureen’s research at the Resnick Sustianability Institute, which she works on in the lab of Professor Sossina Haile. [Dr. Kemei’s Dissertation]

Tags: APhMS honors energy Sossina Haile Moureen Kemei

New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy


Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and colleagues have created a new technique to harness the lost energy from solar panels. “Silicon absorbs only a certain fraction of the spectrum, and it's transparent to the rest. If I put a photovoltaic module on my roof, the silicon absorbs that portion of the spectrum, and some of that light gets converted into power. But the rest of it ends up just heating up my roof," explains Professor Atwater. Now they have found a way to absorb and make use of these infrared waves with a structure composed not of silicon, but entirely of metal. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater