March 13 2019
Clean Technology,News,Research & Development

The Research Connection – March 2019: Clean Tech Edition

Featured R&D projects: 

This edition’s contributors:

Clarkson University | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | SUNY Research Foundation (SUNY ESF, SUNY Poly, UAlbany) | Union College

Next Generation Power Grid Monitoring

Project: A team of undergraduate researchers at Union College, led by assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Luke Dosiek, are analyzing GPS time-synchronized power grid measurements in order to estimate grid stability and detect anomalies such as rogue oscillations. Having real-time awareness of these phenomena is critical for maintaining reliability and resiliency as the smart power grid evolves to include more renewables, distributed generation, electric vehicle charging, etc. The team has designed a low-cost measurement device for the rapid prototyping of their algorithms using real-world data, in addition to using measurements from Union’s on-site cogeneration plant. Additionally, research is being performed into the best ways to present these real-time analysis results to grid operators so as to avoid data overload and operator fatigue. This includes the potential for sonification, in which power grid measurements are directly converted to audio signals. 

 More Info

Contact: Phil Wajda, Director of Media Relations,

Potential Applications: Smart Grid, Power grid research, Energy research

Synthetic Jet and Smart Blades Have the Potential to Expand Wind Energy

Project: Michael Amitay, director of the Center for Flow Physics and Control at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has developed a synthetic jet that is being tested on wind turbines. The jets have the ability to regulate turbine blade vibrations, essentially creating a smart blade. This research has the potential to expand wind turbine use by allowing them to operate more efficiently in low- and high-wind conditions. The synthetic jets will also extend the life of turbine blades by mitigating structural stress.

More Info

Contact: Reeve Hamilton, Director of Media Relations,

Potential applications: Wind energy, wind turbines

Modeling Strategies for Overhauling the Aging Power Grid

Project: The ALSETLab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute specializes in the modeling and simulating of cyber-physical systems. Led by Luigi Vanfretti, an associate professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer, the lab’s name – ALSET – stands for Analysis Laboratory for Synchrophasor and Electrical Energy Technology. Vanfretti and his team use tools that have not been in widespread use in power electronics to develop models and run simulations to better understand how to overhaul the aging power grid and integrate it with more renewable energy sources.

More Info

Contact: Reeve Hamilton, Director of Media Relations,

Potential applications: Cyber-physical systems, renewable energy, smart grid technology

Designing a more recyclable plastic

Project: Rich Gross is a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is working on plastics and other materials that have the performance benefits of synthetic materials, but can be broken down by safe and mild processes to their original building blocks for reuse. Gross has developed several approaches to sustainable plastics, such as polymers made from plant-derived oils. He is also working on improving the efficiency of naturally occurring enzymes to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used in clear and colored plastic water bottles and many other products.

More Info 

Contact: Reeve Hamilton, Director of Media Relations,

Potential applications: Sustainable plastics, reusable materials, chemical biology

Locally grown renewable energy

Project: Driven by the need to develop more sustainable energy and consumer products, enhance the planet’s resilience to climate change, and encourage economic development in rural areas, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry is working with university, private and public partners to research and develop shrub willow for bioenergy production and other uses. Shrub willow can be grown on marginal agricultural land to produce large amounts of renewable biomass for energy. Lifecycle assessments show that willow is a climate-neutral fuel that does not increase greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. There are opportunities to collaborate with the research team and purchase licensed willow varieties.

More Info

Contact: Dr. Timothy A. Volk, Senior Research Associate,

Potential applications: Sustainable energy for heat and power, biofuels, ecosystem services, bioremediation, living snow fences, nutrient buffers, wastewater treatment

Next generation batteries

Project: Despite their many advantages, current lithium ion batteries, which use liquid or organic electrolytes, have met a number of safety and scaling challenges that hinder new technological advancements. A research team at SUNY Polytechnic Institute is exploring an all solid state battery as a possible replacement. Working with industry partners, the team is investigating numerous solid thin film electrolytes for batteries that have theoretically shown competitive ionic conductivity measurements compared to the liquid electrolytes.

Contact: Harry Efstathiadis, Associate Professor of Nanoengineering,

Potential applications: Biomedical research, diagnostics

New York’s Largest Battery Storage Project

Project: As power and transportation converge and the world’s energy demands move to large-scale wind and solar projects, large-scale energy storage projects provide the missing piece to keep the electric grid stable. Key Capture Energy, an independent developer of utility-scale battery storage projects, partnered with the University at Albany through the StartUpNY program and is collaborating with faculty experts in electrical and computer engineering to develop next-generation energy storage technology. There are opportunities to collaborate with Key Capture Energy.

More Info

Contact: Matt Grattan, Director of Economic Development, 

Potential applications: Grid modernization, energy diversification

Horizontal Ribbon Growth of Single-Crystal Silicon Wafers for Solar Cells

Project: This project investigates a novel process for manufacturing single-crystal silicon wafers used to convert solar energy to electrical energy in high efficiency solar cells. Currently, these wafers are produced by the Czochralski growth process. Compared to Czochralski growth, horizontal ribbon growth has the potential to produce thinner and larger wafers at a faster rate and a lower cost (possibly 75 percent lower). However, commercialization has been difficult because there is a lack of understanding of the physics. Scientists at Clarkson are developing a numerical model of the process that can be used to predict and optimize the process so that it can be successfully commercialized. This could make solar electricity significantly cheaper than any other energy source. The team seeks collaborators in solar energy/silicon wafer and solar cell manufacturers.

Contact: Dr. Brian Helenbrook,

Potential applications: Solar energy

Advanced carbon capture materials derived from biomasses

Project: Scientists at Clarkson University design and characterize biomass-derived nanoporous carbons for post-combustion CO2 capture from flue gas streams. This work has generated basic understanding of the structure-property relationships of these materials and suggest new strategies for designing advanced porous materials with pre-determined selectivity and capacity for capturing CO2 molecules. It was shown that their low-cost of preparation, combined with the material’s unique pore architectures and unique functionalities, will position porous carbons at the forefront of CO2 sorbents for industrial applications. The team is interested in collaborating with industrial partners for pilot testing and large-scale implementation.

More Info 

Contact: Dr. Mario Wriedt, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science,

Potential applications: Small-molecule separation and storage, environmental chemistry

About The Research Connection: The Research Connection is a quarterly feature in the Center for Economic Growth’s monthly, online newsletter, The CEG Indicator. This special feature highlights R&D being conducted by researchers at Capital Region colleges and universities and others throughout the SUNY system. The Research Connection spotlights academic R&D in CEG’s focus technology sectors: Nanotechnology and Semiconductors, Cleantech/Energy, Biotechnology, Advanced Materials, Population Health Technology and Information Technology.

Each edition of The Research Connection will highlight several research projects in a specific technology sector. The Research Connection will keep CEG investors (2,500+) and CEG Indicator subscribers (9,000+) informed on the cutting-edge R&D that is being conducted by SUNY and other academic researchers that could potentially transform their industries. It will also encourage collaboration, patent, licensing and other opportunities.

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