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Transdisciplinary Areas of ExcellenceSmart Energy

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Smart Energy Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence

Faculty Hiring Priorities 2014-2015

The Smart Energy Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE) seeks proposals from departments, programs and deans related to hiring in the area of smart energy. Based on deliberations within the TAE, a survey of the campus community and an analysis of fields where we can build on strengths or grow in strategic areas, the TAE is focusing on the following six areas. We anticipate both core and affiliated hires in these areas, and would welcome discussions with departments, deans or groups of faculty members interested in pursuing hiring in these competencies.

Key areas for hiring in smart energy along each of the following six themes are detailed below.
     • Energy Generation and Harvesting
     • Power Electronics, Devices and Systems
     • Energy Storage Materials for Electrochemical Systems
     • Power Distribution, Delivery and Management
     • Efficient Energy Use and Distribution
     • Energy, Environment, Economics and Policy

Energy Generation and Harvesting entails the conversion of energy from solar, heat, vibration and electromagnetic sources into electricity. At Binghamton University, research in materials for solar and thermoelectric devices involves engineering, materials sciences and chemistry faculty and students, many of whom collaborate through the Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) part of the New York State Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging (S3IP). Energy harvesting, sometimes called energy scavenging, involves capture of energy for mobile and wireless sensor node applications that require smaller amounts of power. Energy can be captured from vibrations of structures, stray light and stray electromagnetic energy. Binghamton faculty engaged in energy harvesting devices and applications are in engineering, computer science and chemistry.

The focus of research at Binghamton in energy generation is on unique and (usually) nanostructured materials that can be easily incorporated into devices and circuits to convert solar and thermal energy into electricity efficiently. Some materials are useful for applications in other fields, such as transparent conductors and antireflection coatings. The facilities within CASP, the Analytical and Diagnostics Laboratory (ADL), the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) and the Nanofabrication Laboratory are extensive, and collaborations with industry and other academic programs are growing.

Energy harvesting involves powers ranging from microwatts to tens of watts for a wide variety of systems. Specific research programs at Binghamton include capture of mechanical vibrations with broader band MEMs devices (mechanical engineering), bio-solar cells that can produce electricity day or night (electrical and computer engineering) and micropower sensor applications (computer science).

Areas of interest include:
     • Thin film solar cells fabricated from earth-abundant materials and low-cost organic material
     • New thermoelectric materials to capture energy from concentrated solar power and waste heat
     • Transparent conductors with higher conductivities and transmissivities for solar devices and other applications
     • Reliability studies, including new encapsulates for solar packaging
     • New flexible substrates for lighter and lower-cost solar devices, including those made in volume using the unique roll-to-roll capabilities at the CAMM
     • Transfer to new manufacturing processes for lower-cost solar modules
     • Energy harvesting devices and micropower electronics to power wireless sensor nodes

Power Electronics, Devices and Systems represents a targeted area of interest for electronics devices and systems necessary for electric power control and conversion. Power electronics find increasing application in systems for alternative energy generation, storage and for increased efficiency in power distribution and use. What's needed is research and development of materials, devices and systems that can handle increasingly higher currents and voltages with higher efficiency (i.e., from watts to megawatts of power flow with low energy losses) while tolerating high temperatures (due to waste heat generation) and enabling improved cooling (waste heat transport). For example, power electronics are used for high voltage/high current applications such as high-power AC rectification and DC power supplies, DC to DC conversion, inverters for DC to AC conversion and cycloconverters for AC to AC frequency conversion, serving applications such as solar and thermoelectric DC to AC conversion; battery charging; variable speed drives for industry and transportation vehicles; electric power grid switching and regulation; integration of wind power, solar and fuel cell systems with the electric grid; and electronics for hybrid vehicle power systems.

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:
     • High power electronic materials, such as GaN and SiC, and other novel materials
     • Power semiconductor device design, manufacturing, packaging and reliability
     • Power electronics circuit design
     • Packaging, manufacturing and reliability for power electronics systems
     • Thermal management of high-power electronics, including novel materials and cooling approaches
     • Control, management and integration of power electronics

Energy Storage Materials for Electrochemical Systems provides a broad foundation for the storage of energy and production of power through chemical and electrochemical means. Binghamton University has built a reputation in the area of electrochemical science as applied to energy storage, conversion and generation. The emphasis and skill base in this area is predominantly focused on batteries and fuel cells with a nascent effort in supercapacitors, and the major effort is on the materials used therein. Nanoscience is a key present emphasis for the materials. To maintain and further enhance the strength in this area will require several hires at both the junior and senior levels, in experimental materials and in the theory/modeling of materials. This area is a key user of U.S. National Laboratory characterization facilities, and in the present funding climate much of the effort involves teams of researchers rather than single PIs. Coupled with this is a need for increased emphasis on the applications of newly developed advanced materials to energy storage devices and their integration with other technologies into working systems. Key skills sets will come from disciplines including chemistry, physics and electrical and mechanical engineering.   

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:
     • Electrochemical batteries, electrodes and related materials
     • Capacitors and related structures for high power storage applications
     • Fuel cells and other catalysts for chemical energy storage
     • Physical design of practical, high-performance devices
     • Integrated design, control and management of smart energy storage systems

Power Distribution, Delivery and Management provides the underlying infrastructure for grid based distribution of energy. About 40 percent of U.S. primary energy was converted to electricity in 2011. To secure the U.S. energy future, it is essential to build a smart power grid that accommodates the high penetration of renewable generations and plug-in electric (or hybrid) vehicles. Using information technology and high-performance computing capability, the future smart power grid shall be built and operated at a reasonable cost to achieve high reliability, efficiency and sustainability enabled by smart meters, load side management, wide area measurement and control, smart charger, distributed generation, storage and micro-grid technologies. Targeted areas of interest are the engineering of power grids for transmission and delivery, techniques of power system planning and operation.

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

     • Power system operation and planning
     • Integration of variable energy resources and distributed generation
     • Load modeling and simulation
     • Resilience of distribution system (automatic fault detection and restoration)
     • Micro-grids
     • Demand-side management and smart appliances
     • Advanced metering infrastructure
     • Integration of plug-in electric vehicles
     • Grid security
     • Development of computational tools in planning, operating and electricity markets

Efficient Energy Use and Distribution provides for new approaches to conservation and more efficient use of energy in the commercial and residential sectors. Reducing or eliminating sources of energy waste in systems is essential to the broader goal of reducing dependence on fossil sources, in enhancing reliability of operations of electronic devices and in enabling the operation of devices that are tightly constrained in terms of the power sources that can be used. The goal is to create methodologies for efficiently operating electronic systems, including data centers, by controlling resources and managing workloads to achieve optimal energy consumption.

The specific areas of interest within this broad category are:
     • Smart building materials, management and control
     • Miniaturized systems for body implants or smart patches or ingestible monitors
     • Physics, chemistry, biology and materials for ultra-small scale power sources
     • Electrical power conversion: AC to DC, DC to DC
     • Smart city-scale traffic management for reducing pollution and fuel usage
     • Disposable/modular HPC substrates, embedded Silicon photonics
     • Energy-smart manufacturing and related sustainability issues

Energy, Environment, Economics and Policy are interwoven through the concepts of smart energy. While technology provides a path to the future of energy generation, storage and efficient use, human behavior can have a substantial impact on the environment through the energy choices we make. There is a need on this campus to participate in this debate beyond developing new technologies. There is a gap on campus and in New York for this type of intellectual center, which provides expertise in the political economy, ethics, cost and trade economics, and sustainability policies and impact of energy generation and use. This interdisciplinary need expands beyond any one department and encompasses every college in the University.

The specific areas of interest in this broad category include:
     • Sustainability and environmental specialists that can assess, evaluate and report on the impact of current and future energy-related technologies
     • Analytical and modeling expertise to inform technical, economic and environmental tradeoffs among alternatives
     • An ability to evaluate and predict community and economic impacts across different organizations and individual situations
     • Government, law and planning expertise in the implementation and guidance of energy-related policies and strategies

Last Updated: 2/25/14