February 8 2021
Clean Technology,Research & Development

The Research Connection – February, 2021: Climate Change Edition

Featured university R&D projects:

  • Detecting abandoned gas wells
  • New tool to visualize climate change
  • Next generation perovskite solar cells
  • Integrating solar energy into the power grid
  • Changing the way buildings use energy
  • A green approach to the plastic pollution crisis app
  • Energizing the future
  • Engineering a better world using mirrors, sun and steam
  • Incorporating solar harvesting into the sides of buildings
  • New risk analysis system for renewable energy market

This edition’s contributors:

  • SUNY Research Foundation: SUNY Polytechnic Institute, University at Albany, Binghamton University, SUNY Buffalo State College, Stony Brook University, University at Buffalo
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Detecting abandoned gas wells

Across the country millions of abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking massive amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is a significant contributor to climate change. Binghamton University startup Aletair uses advanced drone technology, specialized sensing equipment and strategically devised methods to find the leaking wells so they can be properly plugged and mapped. Aletair is using Binghamton University technologies in their cutting-edge methods, licensing patent pending technology to support their effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and identify major safety hazards dotted across the country. Partner with Aletair today.

More info

Potential applications: Environmental Management and Remediation Surveys

Contact: Alex Nikulin, Co-founder and CE0, anikulin@aletair.com; Tim de Smet, Co-founder and CTO, tdesmet@aletair.com

New tool to visualize climate change

A new tool developed through the University at Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab (AVAIL) is offering an interactive way to view up to two millennium’s worth of paleoclimate data around the globe. The tool was also developed in partnership with UAlbany’s PIRE CREATE research team. Funded through the National Science Foundation, the easy-to-use climate change visualizer includes three visualization maps, all of which are available to the public: 


  • Tree Ring Viewer: Not only do these rings tell the age of a tree, but also the climatic conditions during its lifetime.
  • Forest Stress Viewer: Through the forest stress viewer, users can analyze both past and future projections (from 2045 to 2060) of forest stress around the world.
  • PHYDA Climate Globe: Visually maps 2,000 years of reconstructed temperature and hydroclimate trends onto a global interface.

Partner with AVAIL to formulate innovative solutions for private business and government.

More info

Potential applications: Inform climate change policies, research and decision- making.

Contact: Ernesto Tejedor Vargas, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences: etejedor@albany.edu

Next generation perovskite solar cells

A research partnership between SUNY Polytechnic Institute and SUNY Buffalo State College is advancing next-generation technology for solar panels. Perovskite Solar Cells efficiently convert UV and visible light into electricity by absorbing photons to produce excitons, or electron-hole pairs which generate a current.

The cost of making a panel using Perovskite Solar Cells is significantly cheaper than the current silicon-based panels. They are comparably lighter, allowing for easier transport, and are quicker to manufacture. The latest studies show the new cells have similar efficiencies and lifespans as well. This technology could greatly decrease pollution and allow for rural access to electricity. Still in the research phase, Perovskite Solar Cell technology can be expected to hit the market sooner rather than later. Collaborate with the research team.

Potential applications: Providing energy to the rural world and a separation from fossil fuels-based electricity.

Contact: Dr. Harry Efstathiadis, Associate Professor, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, hefstathiadis@sunypoly.edu; Dr. Saquib Ahmed, Assistant Professor, SUNY Buffalo State College, ahmedsm@buffalostate.edu

Integrating solar energy into the power grid

The high penetration of many small photovoltaic systems into the power grid presents unprecedented challenges. Binghamton University researchers received $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop ways to support higher amounts of solar power on the grid. The project will focus on advanced grid-forming photovoltaic inverter control technologies so that the renewable energy source can be more efficiently and reliably integrated with electricity generated by coal, natural gas or other non-renewable methods. The goal of the research is to demonstrate a new grid-forming control algorithm at a 1-megawatt hybrid photovoltaic plant at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Two startups at the Southern Tier Incubator — SYNDEM LLC and ChargeCCCV LLC — will provide advanced inverters and storage systems for the demonstration. The proposed controls will be scalable and replicable to multiple hybrid photovoltaic plants. Collaborate with the research team.

More info

Potential Applications: Hybrid photovoltaic plants.

Contact: Ziang “John” Zhang, Associate Professor, Binghamton University, zhangzia@binghamton.edu

Changing the way buildings use energy

Stony Brook University spinout ThermoLift, Inc. is manufacturing a heating and cooling heat pump system for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) that can save up to 50 percent of normal energy costs. The company’s patented TCHP™ system combines heating, cooling, and domestic hot water delivery into a single appliance utilizing the proven Hofbauer Thermal Compression Cycle. This innovative cycle improves system efficiency and results in a significant reduction in building energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. ThermoLift has calculated an estimated annual reduction of CO2 emissions of at least 3 tons (35%) per home when comparing its expected efficiency to state-of-the-art equipment. Learn how you can partner with ThermoLift.

More info

Potential Applications: Refrigeration, food processing, pharmaceutical manufacture, cryogenics, liquefied natural gas and desalination.

Contact: Paul Schwartz, Director of ThermoLift, thermolift@tm-lift.com

A green approach to the plastic pollution crisis app

University at Buffalo researchers are developing a novel set of tools that aim to reduce plastic waste and decrease the production of plastic. This includes a robotic system that relies on machine learning and other technologies to autonomously improve its ability to sort plastics, as well as environmentally responsible solvents and new chemistries that breakdown plastics to make them easier to reuse.

The approach, known as chemical recycling, has low greenhouse gas emissions compared to other recycling methods. Collaborate with the research team.

More info

Potential Applications: Sustainable manufacturing, advanced manufacturing

Contact:  Paschalis Alexandridis, University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor, palexand@buffalo.edu 

Energizing the Future

empowerST, a NYSERDA-funded first-of-its-kind battery accelerator program at Binghamton University, provides salary and R&D funding alongside entrepreneurship training, startup company support, and access to the fast-growing regional battery cluster for nascent entrepreneurs wanting to commercialize novel battery technologies. Fellows will work as part of the NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage directed by 2019 Nobel Laureate Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham and receive strategic commercialization support from the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator program to maximize the business potential of their technologies. Advance research, commercialize innovation.

More info

Potential Applications: Battery storage

Contact: Olga Petrova, Assistant Director, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Partnerships, Binghamton University opetrova@binghamton.edu

Engineering a Better World Using Mirrors, Sun and Steam

Partha Dutta, a professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, envisions a not-so-distant future where even the most remote parts of the world would have access to clean and renewable energy. His vision wouldn’t require a large power grid or expensive technology. Instead, he believes it could be accomplished using simple mirrors, local resources and the sun. What sets Dutta’s concept apart from other concentrated solar power plants is that his plant is simple to construct, relies on local materials, and doesn’t require the use of molten salt, which can cause corrosion within the system’s pipes. These features mean lower assembly and maintenance costs, which would make a major difference for many communities. Dutta recently built a kilowatt-scale prototype plant in Bhopal, India, successfully demonstrating the proof of concept.

More info

Potential Applications: Solar power, renewable energy, clean energy

Contact: Torie Wells, buckv@rpi.edu 

Incorporating Solar Harvesting Into the Sides of Buildings

If builders could incorporate solar harvesting into the siding of a building, the amount of energy from the grid that a structure would need may significantly decrease. A team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute led by Diana-Andra Borca-Tasciuc, a professor of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering, recently demonstrated the potential of wedge-shaped luminescent solar concentrators. These efficient modular solar units could easily be hung on the side of a building. Based on data from Albany, New York, and Phoenix, Arizona, the annual energy production predicted for these devices was up to 40% more than the annual energy produced by solar panels, when both are installed vertically.

More info

Potential Applications: Solar power, alternative energy

Contact: Torie Wells, buckv@rpi.edu  

New Risk Analysis System for Renewable Energy Market

With the support of a $2.66 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a research team led by Aparna Gupta, an associate professor of quantitative finance in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (pictured above), will develop crucial risk management tools for the power sector to better incorporate renewable energy into the energy market in the coming decades. Because of weather variability and a lack of power system storage, relying on wind and solar currently seems far riskier than traditional, less environmentally friendly energy sources to many end users. The risk segmenting and scoring methods that will be created over the course of this three-year grant will make it easier for renewable energy producers to actively participate in energy markets, and for end users to benefit from reliable, inexpensive energy.

More info

Potential Applications: Risk assessment, energy management

Contact: Jeanne Hedden Gallagher, gallaj3@rpi.edu

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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