Transdisciplinary Areas of ExcellenceSmart Energy

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Smart Energy collaboration grant awards from prior years


The following projects were awarded funds through a competitive, peer-reviewed program, with the goal of encouraging faculty to develop collaborative projects that stimulate the advancement of new ideas that can build Binghamton University's expertise toward a national reputation in the broad area of smart energy.

  • Self-Sustaining Power Generation from a Bio-Solar Panel
    Self-sustainable energy sources are essential for a wide array of wireless applications deployed in remote field locations. Due to their self-assembling and self-repairing properties, "Biological solar (bio-solar) cells" are recently gaining attention for those applications. The bio-solar cell can continuously generate electricity from microbial photosynthetic and respiratory activities under day-night cycles. Requiring only sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to operate, bio-solar cells offer advantages over potentially competing sustainable power sources such as microbial fuel cells or photovoltaic cells because the photosynthetic microorganisms used in bio-solar cells a) do not require an organic fuel, obviating the need for an active-feeding system, and b) are capable of producing power both day and at night. Despite the vast potential and promise of bio-solar cells, they, however, have not yet successfully translated into commercial applications, as they demonstrate persistent performance limits and scale-up bottlenecks. What is needed is twofold: a fundamental breakthrough in bio-solar cells that can maximize their power-generating capabilities, and an innovative strategy for scaling them up.

    The overall objective of this proposed study is to create a proto-type scaleable biological solar panel by integrating significantly improved miniature bio-solar cells in an array.

    Principal investigators/departments: Seokheun Choi, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Gretchen Mahler, Department of Bioengineering; and Charles Westgate, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • A Novel Statistical-Analytic Cloud Approach to Autonomous, Real-Time threat Detection in Modern SmartGrid Networks

    This inter-disciplinary collaborative research initiative aims to develop a statistical-analytic cloud based auditing framework for the next generation integrated, end-to-end cybershield intended to provide reliability and security in the rapidly emerging Smart Grid domain. By symbiotically combining the state-of-the-art in statistical methodology for "on-the-go" anomaly detection in live-observed data with the forefront in contemporary cloud computing, the techniques developed in this project will enable complex Smart Grid networks to stay ahead of the threat and therefore operate reliably and securely. The salient feature of this research effort is the involvement of an industrial partner specializing in Smart Grid technology.

    Principal investigators/departments: Yu Chen, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Aleksey Polunchenko, Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • Energy Harvesting from Mechanical Vibrations Using Nonlinear Resonators for Wireless Sensor Networks

    Mechanical vibration present in the environment and transportation vehicles is an abundant source of energy that can be used to operate remote sensors to detect early signs of failure. In this project, a compact and high performance nonlinear resonator will be developed that can efficiently harvest energy from broadband ambient mechanical vibration below 100 Hz to make self-powered sensors. Using an optimized nonlinear resonator design made of a soft polymer material, the output frequency bandwidth can be widened up to 10 times, and the output power can be enhanced up to 3mW, which is three orders of magnitude larger compared to available linear energy harvesters. The energy harvester will be integrated with a power conditioning circuitry and a customized Wireless Sensor Network (WSN). The power conditioning circuitry consists of a supercapacitor that efficiently stores the energy to provide a reliable powering system at a constant voltage for the autonomous WSN. The WSN design will be changed to make it ultra-low power and compatible with the electric power generated by the vibration energy harvester. The results of this investigation can lead to an autonomous WSN that is energy efficient across all subsystems, from power generation to networking. WSNs powered by harvesting vibration energy can provide a major technological advancement in remote sensors.

    Principal investigators/departments: Shahrzad Towfighian, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Yu Chen, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Alok Rastogi, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Development of Ultrahigh Capacity Lithium-Ion Battery Anode Materials

The continued improvement of Li-ion battery storage capacity is dependent on development of new battery materials. Nanometer-sized Si, as an anode material, can tolerate mechanical stresses and possesses over 10 times higher capacity than that of graphite/carbon. However, its poor electrical contact with the current collector has hindered its usage. This project addresses this issue by proposing a new layered graphene oxide-Si hierarchical nanostructure to resolve the conductivity obstacle, when the large volume change issue is being overcome. In this design, high-quality Si nanocrystals are intercalated in between highly conductive graphene oxide layers, driven by strong electrostatic interactions. The large volumetric changes of Si that take place during battery cycling will also be accommodated by the layered structure.

This layered anode material will be fabricated and understood by close collaboration of three research groups on the campus with complementary research expertise. Dr. Fang will lead the synthesis of high-quality layered materials and their electrochemical evaluation. Drs. Piper and Zhou will explore the electronic and geometric structure as a function of Li intercalation, respectively. This work will provide the necessary preliminary results to aggressively seek external grants.

Principal investigators/departments: Jiye Fang, associate professor of chemistry; Louis Piper, assistant professor of physics; and Guangwen Zhou, associate professor of mechanical engineering

  • Laser-Sintered Nanoparticle-Printed Flexible Energy Storage Devices

The goal of this project is to establish a new research program in designing and fabricating flexible energy storage devices such as rechargeable lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries which will feature high-energy capacity, low-cost, lightweight and conformal bendability as power sources for portable electronics, medical devices and electric vehicles. The specific objective of this Smart Energy Interdisciplinary Collaboration effort is to demonstrate the feasibility of a printable and flexible substrate for the creation of electrodes, electronics and functionalities using a combination of roll-to-roll manufacturing, nano printing and laser sintering techniques. Both fundamental and technical issues will be addressed in terms of the viability for flexible assembly of high-capacity and long-durability batteries. This interdisciplinary effort couples the expertise of Dr. Zhong in electrochemical energy storage and flexible nanodevices and the expertise of Dr. Shim in pulsed laser techniques and spectroscopy in the direction of establishing an advanced energy storage research program consistent with the Smart Energy Road Map at Binghamton University.

Principal investigators/departments: Chuan-Jian Zhong, professor of chemistry, and Bonggu Shim, assistant professor of physics

  • Tuning Exciton Dynamics in Organic Nanowire-Based Solar Cells

Organic molecule-based solar cells are poised to become an inexpensive clean energy source with the added advantages of mechanical flexibility and light weight. The best performing organic solar cells rely on a nanostructured morphology consisting of interpenetrating electron donating and electron accepting domains. At present, this nanomorphology is poorly controlled, leading to a limited understanding about the relationships between nanoscale structure and optoelectronic function.

We aim to improve photocurrent generation in molecule-based solar cells by employing active layers comprised of organic nanowires. The large surface-to-volume ratio and continuous charge transport pathway presented by the nanowires are expected to be beneficial for charge photo-generation and transport, leading to increased solar cell efficiencies; moreover, having well-defined nanomorphologies, organic nanowires are suitable as model systems for probing exciton dynamics that play an essential role in solar cell operation. Through a combination of ultrafast optical spectroscopies and nanometer-scale electrical mapping, we will probe the influence of nanowire size on the separation of excitons into free charge carriers. Elucidation of the interplay between exciton dynamics and nanowire dimensions represents a key step in demonstrating the promise of nanowire-based organic solar cells.

Principal investigators/departments: Jeffrey Mativetsky, assistant professor of physics; Joon Jang, assistant professor of physics; and Alistair Lees, professor of chemistry

Last Updated: 12/8/14