News

Jul
29
2020
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Engineering a Carbon-Negative Power Plant


As renewable power generation increases, conventional energy sources like natural gas, coal, and nuclear power will still be required to balance the nation’s energy portfolio. Traditional power plants will not, however, need to produce as much energy as they do now, leaving them to sit idle some of the time. Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and her team received $800,283 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Flexible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program to design a natural gas/direct air capture hybrid plant that will take advantage of those idle periods. The proposed design will not only eliminate carbon emissions from the power plant when it is producing electricity for the grid but will also capture carbon from the atmosphere during idle periods, ideally making the plant carbon negative. “We still have a large fleet of natural gas and coal plants in our country. As we add renewables, which provide intermittent energy, we’ll still need those fossil power sources to make sure the grid is consistently powered,” explained Hornbostel. “The FLECCS funding call asks how we can make those fossil sources cleaner and even use them to improve air quality.” For the project, Hornbostel will partner with Glenn Lipscomb, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toledo; Debangsu Bhattacharyya, professor of chemical engineering at West Virginia University; and Michael Matuszewski, founder of Aristosys LLC in Venetia, PA. The team has proposed a system design that integrates natural gas with two carbon capture technologies: a membrane system that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from the plant’s exhaust, and a sorbent system that will absorb leftover CO2 from the exhaust and CO2 from the air outside. During normal operations, the hybrid plant will capture about 99 percent of the CO2 it generates; during off-peak hours, the plant will use its power to run the carbon capture systems to remove CO2 from the air. “This is a very exciting and important project, and I’m pleased – but not surprised – to see this innovative research is being undertaken in Pittsburgh,” said Congressman Mike Doyle. “The world must achieve net-zero carbon emissions in a few short decades, or the impact on the environment and our society will be devastating. It’s essential that, as we make the transition to carbon-free energy, we also make efforts like this to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants that use fossil fuels – and explore technology that could reduce the carbon already in our atmosphere. ARPA-E is playing a critical role in promoting groundbreaking research on all aspects of energy production and consumption, and I strongly support its important work.” The highly competitive ARPA-E FLECCS Program awarded $11.5 million in Phase 1 funding to 12 projects that develop carbon capture and storage processes. Hornbostel will be the second in the Swanson School to receive an ARPA-E award, following Assistant Chair of Research and Professor of Chemical Engineering Robert Enick. “ARPA-E grants are very prestigious and are only awarded to the most innovative applications that propose high impact projects,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. “Dr. Hornbostel and her team will use this FLECCS funding to address several important gaps in the field, and we could not be prouder of her for winning this award.” Reposted from SSOE, access the original article here.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
2
2020
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The Department of Energy Awards $1.9M to Swanson School Faculty and Students for Nuclear Energy Research


Humankind is consuming more energy than ever before, and with this growth in consumption, researchers must develop new power technologies that will address these needs. Nuclear power remains a fast-growing and reliable sector of clean, carbon-free energy, and four researchers at the University of Pittsburgh received awards to further their work in this area. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invested more than $65 million to advance nuclear technology, announced June 16, 2020. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a total of $1,868,500 in faculty and student awards from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). According to the DOE, “NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.” “Historically, our region has been a leader in the nuclear energy industry, and we are trying to keep that tradition alive at the Swanson School by being at the forefront of this field,” said Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program. “I’m thrilled that the Department of Energy has recognized the innovative work from our faculty, and I look forward to seeing the advancements that arise from this research.” The DOE supported three projects from the Swanson School. High Temperature Thermophysical Property of Nuclear Fuels and MaterialsPI: Heng Ban, Richard K. Mellon Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program$300,000 Ban, a leading expert in nuclear material thermal properties and reactor instrumentation and measurements, will use this award to enhance research at Pitt by filling an infrastructure gap.  He will purchase key equipment to strengthen core nuclear capability in the strategic thrust area of instrumentation and measurements. A laser flash analyzer and a thermal mechanical analyzer (thermal expansion) will be purchased as a tool suite for complete thermophysical property information. Fiber Sensor Fused Additive Manufacturing for Smart Component Fabrication for Nuclear EnergyPI: Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer EngineeringCo-PI: Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science$1,000,000 The Pitt research team will utilize unique technical capabilities developed in the SSoE to lead efforts in sensor-fused additive manufacturing for future nuclear energy systems. Through integrated research efforts in radiation-harden distributed fiber sensor fabrication, design and optimization algorithm developments, and additive manufacturing innovation, the team will deliver smart components to nuclear energy systems to harness high spatial resolution data. This will enable artificial intelligence based data analytics for operation optimization and condition-based maintenance for nuclear power systems. Multicomponent Thermochemistry of Complex Chloride Salts for Sustainable Fuel Cycle TechnologiesPI: Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceCo-PIs: Prof. Elizabeth Sooby Wood (University of Texas at San Antonio), Dr. Toni Karlsson (Idaho National Laboratory), and Dr. Guy Fredrickson (Idaho National Laboratory)$400,000 Nuclear reactors help bring clean water and reliable energy to communities across the world. Next-generation reactor design, especially small modular reactors, will be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, but they will require high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) as fuel. As the demand for HALEU is expected to grow significantly, Xiong’s project seeks to improve the process of recovering uranium from spent nuclear fuels to produce HALEU ingots. Part of the process involves pyrochemical reprocessing based on molten salt electrolysis. Hence, developing a thermodynamic database using the CALPHAD (Calculation of Phase Diagrams) approach to estimate the solubilities of fission product chloride salts into the molten electrolyte is essential for improving the process efficiency. The results will help in estimating the properties that are essential for improving the HALEU production and further support the development of chloride molten salt reactors. Two Swanson School students also received awards from NEUP. Jerry Potts, a senior mechanical engineering student, received a $7,500 nuclear energy scholarship, one of 42 students in the nation. Iza Lantgios (BS ME ‘20), a matriculating mechanical engineering graduate student, was one of 34 students nationwide to be awarded a $161,000 fellowship. Swanson School students have secured 20 NEUP scholarships and fellowships since 2009.
Leah Russell
Jun
18
2020
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Researching resilience: the data behind the modern grid


Grid and infrastructure resilience are increasingly important, while a relatively ‘new concept’ in terms of today’s modern grid, and its dynamic environment. With the increase in natural disasters, and as the northern hemisphere goes into what is commonly known as ‘storm season’, Smart Energy International spoke with Dr. Alexis Kwasinski, Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Kwasinski specializes in grid resilience research in areas prone to natural disasters and extreme weather. Read the full article.
Smart Energy International Issue 3-2020
Mar
11
2020
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Dr. Liu receives the 2020 Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award


The Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award annually recognizes outstanding scholarly accomplishments of members of the University of Pittsburgh's faculty. Junior Scholar Awardees include faculty members who, by virtue of the exceptional quality of their early contributions, have demonstrated great potential as scholars and have achieved some international standing. Professor Liu is an outstanding researcher and has made tremendous contributions to the field of computational organic chemistry and mechanistic investigations of transition metal catalysis. He has received multiple awards, including the NSF CAREER award, NIH MIRA award, and the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry Award for Early Excellence. His research achievements have been highlighted by various professional media outlets, including Chemical and Engineering News, JACS Spotlights, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., and Synfacts. Congratulations Peng!

Mar
1
2020
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Pitt Commits to Carbon Neutrality


Reposted with permission from Pittwire. Click here to view the original press release. As the planet’s climate changes in ways that pose daunting challenges, the University of Pittsburgh is accelerating its aggressive sustainability plan with a more ambitious goal: become carbon neutral by 2037, which is Pitt’s 250th anniversary. Through partnerships, increased building and infrastructure efficiencies, expanded use of renewable energy sources and other measures on the Pittsburgh campus, Pitt will build on previous efforts, including the greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 22% between 2008 and 2017. “Addressing climate change is a vital issue for our University, society and future,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “Pledging to go carbon neutral is a critical next step for the University of Pittsburgh—one that seamlessly aligns with our commitment to drive sustainable innovations and equitable opportunities for all.” Pitt’s Board of Trustees voted in its Feb. 28 public meeting to adopt a resolution of support for Gallagher’s signing of the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. This makes Pitt the ninth largest among Association of American Universities institutions to pursue a net-zero carbon footprint. Key initiatives to achieve this goal include: Building Efficiency: With 130 buildings, including 14 projects certified under U.S. Green Building Council standards, Pitt will continue pursuing its 50% reduction in energy use by 2030 in existing facilities. For new construction, the goal is an 80% reduction by 2030 in support of the 2037 neutrality goal. Renewable Energy: The University has committed to purchase at least 50% of campus electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including from a low-impact hydroelectric power plant in the Allegheny River that will come online by 2023. Infrastructure Efficiency: In 2009, Pitt built one of the most efficient steam plants in the nation on Carrillo Street, which has helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions to date. The University is also growing its current fleet of five zero-emissions electric vehicles. Efficiencies in purchasing supply chains, materials diversion, greater utilization of active and shared transportation modes and offsets will also help Pitt to become carbon neutral. Leadership and Collaboration: Students, faculty and staff have embraced Pitt’s commitment to sustainability and continue to develop new initiatives, many with funding support. In addition to the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability, Pitt has a Student Office of Sustainability that supports 27 affiliated student organizations. Other offerings include the undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability, the cross-disciplinary Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and the new Center for Sustainable Business, housed at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration. Since 2014, Pitt has ranked among America’s top “Cool Schools” by Sierra Magazine for its sustainability leadership and commitment, which began more than two decades ago. In 2018, the University achieved its first Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (AASHE STARS) Silver designation. “As a University, we have made great strides in supporting sustainable practices, teaching, research and partnerships through innovation and collaboration. But we can—and must—do more,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability. “We will continue to engage across campus, Pittsburgh, the U.S. and the world to ensure equitable access and opportunity for shared prosperity among all members of the Pitt community and beyond.” The University’s pledge exceeds the carbon reduction targets of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Pittsburgh. Pitt’s progress toward carbon neutrality will be shared via a newly created online “sustainability dashboard” updated by the University’s Office of Sustainability. “Congratulations to Chancellor Gallagher and the University of Pittsburgh for today making a bold commitment to carbon neutrality,” said Timothy Carter, president of Second Nature. “This is an essential step of leadership that elevates the city of Pittsburgh’s position as one of the key hubs of climate action for our country. On behalf of Second Nature and the Climate Leadership Network, we look forward to sharing resources, relationships and knowledge to help them reach their carbon neutrality goal by 2037.”
Kevin Zwick
Feb
19
2020
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Anti-reflective and self-cleaning glass places in DOE solar competition


Reposted with permission from SSoE. Click here to view the original press release. A project developed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has been selected for the American-Made Solar Prize, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) competition designed to incentivize entrepreneurs toward U.S. solar energy innovation and manufacturing. The project, “Durable Antireflective and Self-Cleaning Glass,” is led by Paul W. Leu, PhD, professor of industrial engineering, Sajad Haghanifar, doctoral candidate in Leu's lab, and Sooraj Sharma, a senior studying materials science and engineering who began developing this project in 2018 through the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) Undergraduate Summer Research Program. The team is evaluating new methods to improve the top glass sheet in solar panels.  The top glass on a solar panel is partially reflective, losing valuable rays that could be converted to energy as they bounce off the glass. Conventional anti-reflective coatings aren’t effective against a broad range of wavelengths, and the team is instead using sub-wavelength nano-structures that may reduce broadband reflection over a wide range of incidence angles to as low as 0 percent. Solar panels may also be installed in desert and urban environments, where particulates and pollutants may dirty the glass, blocking sunlight from being converted to electricity. The team is evaluating methods to use naturally forming dew droplets to remove dirt. “Solar panels are one of the most promising forms of renewable energy, and our research addresses some of the problems hindering its wide use,” says Sharma. “We’re excited to see the wide range of innovations proposed in this round of the competition. This prize will enable us to advance our project to the next level and take substantial steps toward clean, renewable energy.” The project is one of 20 that has made it to this round out of the 120 submissions, chosen for the novelty of the solution and how impactful it would be against the problems facing the solar industry. Each team will receive a $50,000 cash prize and is eligible for the next round of the competition, which rewards a cash prize of $100,000 and up to $75,000 in vouchers. The following, final phase of the competition will select two final projects to win a $500,000 prize in September 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
17
2020
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Equitable Energy Access in India


Reposted with permission from Pittwire. Click here to view the original press release.The work of Meital Rosenberg (Econ), Prof. Michaël Aklin (Poli Sci and Center for Energy member), and professors in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon was recently published in Nature Sustainability on the topic of gender inequality in energy use in India. Each day, new studies are published in various scientific journals, big and small. Most are led by university faculty members and PhD researchers, but rarely by undergraduate students. This wasn’t on Meital Rosenberg’s (A&S ’17) mind when she traveled to India for her undergraduate research. Rosenberg, a graduate from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Economics, was recently credited as a first author in the journal Nature Sustainability. She, along with colleagues at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University, published findings on the relationship between energy use and gender equality in India. “I was amazed. It’s amazing to think that something I worked so hard for and cared so much about is being recognized in that way,” said Rosenberg, who is now an associate with the San Francisco-based company Hirsch & Associates. “I spent a lot of time working on this throughout my junior and senior years. It’s an honor to see.” For the study, Rosenberg traveled to the Indian state of Gujarat during her junior year in 2016 as part of her Honors College Bachelor of Philosophy thesis. She interviewed families on their heating and lighting sources, as well as electricity use and reliability. “I chose India largely because my economic development classes were filled with case studies and research being done in India,” she said. “I really wanted to look at economic impact from the lens of how it reaches marginalized groups. Researchers believe that economic development benefits all people, and studies often suggest that access to these resources will particularly benefit women. I was curious to see if that was really happening, and how women were actually benefitting from these developments.” What she and her team found was that women are neither the sole nor primary beneficiaries of electricity access—even when appliances that would particularly benefit them, such as fans or televisions, are affordable. Instead, intra-household power dynamics were found to be an important boundary to realizing more equitable energy access. “The women would often tell me that the television was for their kids or husband and not for their own personal use,” she said. “Some also told me that electricity made their lives more difficult because they were working longer hours; they were no longer able to stop when the sun went down.” Among her coauthors were fellow Pitt alumnus Daniel Armanios, an assistant professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. Armanios graduated from Pitt with degrees in mechanical engineering and political science in 2007 and earned a Rhodes Scholarship while at the University. He met Rosenberg at a Pitt Honors College meeting in 2016. “This is a testament to Meital’s ideas and insights. We simply helped her push this idea to fruition, but it was her idea that led to these results,” said Armanios. “Such a publication like this is significant for a faculty member. So, for her to accomplish this as an undergraduate, it opens a whole line of opportunities for research, industry and further education. To work with a student of such rare conviction and talent as Metial is what makes being a faculty so rewarding.” Other coauthors include Michaël Aklin, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Political Science, and Paulina Jaramillo, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. “I don’t know if I would have kept pursuing publication for this study if it weren’t for them and their belief in this work,” Rosenberg said about her faculty colleagues. While Rosenberg does not currently have plans to return to research, she continues to work in philanthropy, focusing on community engagement and social impact change, something that carries over from her time at Pitt. While a Panther, she served as executive vice president and business manager for the Hillel Jewish University Center. She was also a consultant for Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, where she further developed volunteer engagement strategies for local community arts centers, and was a resident assistant at Litchfield Towers. “I always grew up with a ‘make the world a better place’ mantra. My parents worked in the nonprofit, community service world. I’ve always been motivated by finding out what my role is in supporting marginalized communities,” she said. “I want to continue to work in that space to develop best practices on effectively and sustainably impacting social good to create a better world for all people.”
Amerigo Allegretto
Feb
12
2020
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Dr. Fullerton named a 2020 Sloan Research Fellow


Congratulations to Prof. Susan Fullerton as a recipient of a 2020 Sloan Research Fellowship! Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships honor scholars in the U.S. and Canada whose creativity, leadership, and independent research achievements make them some of the most promising researchers working today. Winners receive $75,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research. The Fullerton Group seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of ion-electron transport at the molecular level, and use this knowledge to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic, and energy storage.
Jenny Stein
Feb
12
2020
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Microseisms have a macro effect on fracking


The process of extracting energy-providing oil and natural gas from shale and sand nestled below the Earth’s surface could become a more exact science that produces more power and drives higher profits  thanks to work by Pitt researchers. Adjunct assistant professor of geophysics Abhash Kumar and professor William Harbert of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science worked with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Lab researcher Richard Hammack to develop advance geophysical workflows for detecting low-frequency earthquakes that shed light on the types of rock deformation that occur during hydraulic fracturing. This knowledge can be used to increase the amount of oil and natural gas that can be produced from unconventional shale reservoirs. The previously undetected resources could be a windfall for an industry expected to produce an average of 90.3 billion cubic feet per day of dry natural gas this year and an average of 92.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day by 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “This work answers a very important question, which is, when you do hydraulic fracking, where exactly is the energy going?” said Harbert. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process where mixture of  water, sand and chemicals are pumped under high pressure into strategically drilled underground wells. Typically, explained Kumar, companies conduct the process in ways that are designed to create new fractures and increase the connectivity of preexisting fractures that leads to instantaneous improvement in fluid flow. “During the fracturing process, large numbers of small magnitude earthquakes are generated that are recorded by surface and/or borehole geophones. Based on the location of the microseismic earthquake, you can try to create a picture of overall volume of rock that’s been fractured. Based on that volume, companies can anticipate how much oil and gas they are going to produce,” Kumar said. For years, conventional wisdom has been that shale reservoir rocks will show signs of instantaneous fracturing due to high-pressure fluid injection, which is known as brittle deformation. However, research by Kumar, Harbert, Hammack and former NETL intern Erich Zorn, now a Senior Geologist at DiGioia Gray & Associates,  has indicated that rocks with higher contents of clay and other soft materials dominantly undergo non-brittle deformation, which is characterized by slow rate of fracturing over longer periods of time and release ultra low-frequency earthquakes. They detailed the findings in the paper, “Long Period, Long Duration (LPLD) Seismicity and their Probable Role in Reservoir Stimulation and Stage Productivity” which is recently published in the journal SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering. “We found positive temporal correlation between low frequency earthquakes and increased fluid activity during hydraulic fracturing, suggesting that these unique events are generated in response to extensive reservoir fracturing, triggered by highly elevated fluid pressure,” Kumar said. “These low frequency seismic events of long duration are likely linked with non-brittle deformation in the reservoir during hydraulic fracturing and contribute both in the overall stimulation of the reservoir and gas production,” said Kumar. Additionally, during field research at a West Virginia hydraulic fracking site, Kumar demonstrated the low-frequency earthquakes that signal non-brittle deformation and potential stimulation of reservoir could be detected using low-cost surface seismometers placed on the ground rather than borehole geophones and fiber optic sensors, which are much more expensive and requires a well to be drilled specifically for monitoring. Combined, the findings could give oil and gas industry executives more precise methods to extract greater amounts of energy, cheaper equipment to get the process started and a broader view of the types of areas that are worthy of exploring. “Our analysis proposed that overall deformation due to hydraulic fracking doesn’t belong to one particular type of deformation, it undergoes both types, brittle and non-brittle,” said Kumar. “Taking both into account can increase overall estimates of fracturing volume of rock, therefore estimate of oil and gas productivity will be much higher.” Hammack said the theory still needs to be proved at other well-characterized sites that feature geophysical models and he’s hoping the team will be able to monitor less-characterized areas near Pittsburgh and Morgantown sometime this year. And while he credited the work of Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback for the first work involving low-frequency earthquakes in shale gas wells, he said Kumar’s work with surface seismometers helped to advance that to new heights. “No one else had ever gone the lengths to build a whole new science behind it,” Hammack said.
Deborah Todd
Feb
12
2020
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Dr. Grainger named Engineer of the Year


Reposted from SSoE. Click here to view the original press release.Brandon Grainger, assistant professor and Eaton Faculty Fellow of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, received the 2019 Engineer of the Year Award from the Engineering Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP). The award recognizes individuals who have significant technical and professional accomplishments which contribute to the engineering profession, and it was presented at the ESWP Annual Engineering Awards Banquet on Thursday, February 6, 2020 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel. Grainger is associate director of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Electric Power Engineering Program and associate director of the Energy GRID Institute. He received his PhD in electrical engineering with a specialization in power conversion from Pitt in 2014, where he also received his master’s degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.  He was one of the first R.K. Mellon graduate student fellows as the Center for Energy was being established at Pitt. Grainger’s research interests are primarily focused upon power electronic converter design with power ranges that accommodate aerospace to grid scale applications. He and his advised students investigate circuit topology design, controllers, magnetics, and power semiconductor devices to ensure practical, high power dense solutions primarily for DC/DC and DC/AC converters. “The success of my research endeavors is a result of being strategic, aggressive and observant with a critical eye for detail,” he said. “In the past, there were two classes of engineers in power engineering: the system engineers and power conversion engineers. Although I focus in power conversion engineering, my strength is bridging both domains while proposing unique, novel solutions that industry will find valuable. I feel I bridge academia and industry well - in how I teach, train students, and interact with a wide range of manufacturers.” Grainger, a Pittsburgh native, worked for a variety of companies before joining Pitt full-time including ABB, ANSYS, Mitsubishi Electric and Siemens as either a co-op student, graduate student intern or full-time engineer. The Pittsburgh region is the birthplace of electric power engineering and Grainger gives credit to his academic and industry partners, foundations in the region and graduate students who have invested in him professionally, monetarily, or partnered with him in solving tough, electrical engineering problems that resulted in him receiving this award. “The challenges we are facing today cannot be solved by one individual but requires a community of champions within various organizations who have diverse skill sets to drive change,” he said. “My job is to ensure that students graduating with advanced degrees are equipped to meet these challenges and, yet, being a part of the community of professionals early on. I want to ensure that they feel confident as they transition to the workforce, thus, they are a part of influencing solutions being developed now, in practice, with our program at Pitt.” Grainger has contributed to more than 60 electric power engineering articles and is an annual reviewer of various power electronic conferences and transaction articles. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) where he participates in the Power Electronics Society (PELS) and Industrial Electronics Society (IES) at national levels. He served as the IEEE Pittsburgh PELS chapter chair for three years at which time the section won numerous awards under his leadership. “We are very proud to have Brandon as part of our faculty,” said Alan George, Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the R&H Mickle Endowed Chair Professor.  “Through his teaching and mentoring, he effectively prepares nascent engineers for a successful career in an increasingly diverse and global workforce. His innovative research and collaborations have been an asset to our department from his time as a student to his subsequent transition to faculty in 2014. Brandon is most deserving of this recognition.”
Leah Russell, Photo credit: Larry Rippel
Feb
3
2020
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Local young scientists conduct energy-related projects


The Center for Energy sponsored science project awards for the regional Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The PJAS is a non-profit organization affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with the goal to stimulate and promote interest in science among its members through the development of research projects and investigations. Students in grades 7 -12 participate by designing a scientific research project and then give oral presentations to a team of judges. Dr. Grainger, along with several of his students, was present to evaluate projects and select two candidates for the University of Pittsburgh Center for Energy-Swanson School of Engineering Award that included $100, a plaque, and a bag of SSOE goodies. The students were selected based on their projects that demonstrated innovation and technical competence in engineering and science related to power and energy technologies, systems, and concepts. Janise Kim, a 10th grade student at Fox Chapel Area High School, presenting her project "Applying Machine Learning to Eliminate Standby Electricity" and Kandalyn Umbel, a 7th grade student at Queen of Angels, presenting her project "Light it Up", received the Center for Energy awards. Congratulations to these bright young minds!
Jenny Stein
Jenny Stein
Nov
14
2019
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Dan Passarello - Study Abroad Experience


1) What were your expectations prior to visiting Scandinavia (in terms of what you knew, related to energy)? Prior to visiting Scandinavia, I was under the impression that Denmark and Sweden would have nearly the same energy goals and developments as those here in the United States.  Having taken one power concentrated course prior to visiting Scandinavia, I thought I had a solid overall understanding of what energy related technologies, infrastructures, and policies I was going to see overseas. 2) What was the reality of those expectations? Upon returning the United States, I found that what I learned in my one power concentrated course was just a small portion of what I experienced overseas.  Also, the contrast in infrastructures and policies in the United States to those of Denmark and Sweden was much more dramatic than I had expected. 3) Tell us what you thought was the most interesting site visit and why? The venues and guest speakers of each of our visits were great.  Each lecture was very informative and the technologies and infrastructures they had to show us were amazing.  This was certainly the case with the Middelgrunden wind farm.  With 20 offshore wind turbines and a 40 MW capacity, the wind farm was the largest of its kind when it was built in 2000.  Though the Middelgrunden wind farm, Denmark Technical University, Avedore Power Plant, and Jaegerspris Solar Heating Plant site visits were all incredible, I think our visit to ABB shocked me the most.  ABB’s Flexible Alternating Current System (FACTS) department presented some of their unique products that can boost transmission capacity, improve long distance power transfer, relieve transmission bottlenecks, minimize black-out risks, improve dynamic grid stability, and much more.  After a briefing on FACTS technology, we were shown a virtual reality room.  Most times, virtual reality is associated with recreational use for things such as playing video games or simulating a roller coaster ride.  In this case, an employee had created a substation (utilizing FACTS) to pitch its size and specs to another company.  As if the virtual reality room wasn’t mind blowing enough, we were then shown the robotics sector of ABB where they had robots mass producing robots!  Kind of scary but awesome at the same time. 4) What was your goal for studying abroad, was your goal achieved? My ultimate goal for studying abroad was to gain enough knowledge about the power industry to determine if I would want to strive towards making a career out of working in this field. I am confident enough in all of the information I have gathered from this trip to say that I am strongly considering such a career.  I also had smaller personal goals of things such as experiencing other cultures, trying new foods, and partaking in every and any adventurous activity.  Of which, this study abroad trip fulfilled all of. 5) How has your study abroad experience affected your perception of energy in the U.S? My perception of energy in the U.S. has certainly changed after being overseas.  With 42% of Denmark’s electricity being produced by wind energy, the United States seems far behind at a mere 15% generation with all renewable energy sources.  Though the deficit seems large, we do have to consider that New York City has a larger population than Denmark.  By 2020, Denmark wants to be up to 50% wind penetration, 20% carbon-neutral biomass, and have some hydro power.  The differing fact that stood out to me about Sweden, when compared to the United States, was the Swedish support of nuclear energy.  The health and environmental costs of nuclear energy are now seen to as a major problem by the United States as nuclear plants continue to close. Sweden hopes grow in nuclear and actually become 1/3 wind, 1/3 hydro, and 1/3 nuclear energy dependent by 2040.  By looking at the energy goals of Denmark and Sweden, among other things, there was definitely an overall more unanimous consensus to improve renewable energy production from local communities and the government than in the United States right now.  Communities and individuals in Denmark and Sweden believe in renewable production and are collectively investing in it. 6) How has this experience influenced/modified your future career plans? This experience has greatly influenced my perspective on what it means to integrate clean energy into the grid.  Due to much needed technology developments and infrastructure upgrades, the power grid in the United States will need to undergo many changes in the near future to keep up with other countries.  Therefore, from this enlightening study abroad experience, I can see the need for electrical engineers in the near future for the power industry.  This trip has given me more motivation to go on to complete a power concentration within electrical engineering.  I think I may also now look into the potential for me to study abroad at Denmark Technical University for a semester.  As a whole, I could not have asked for a better, more influential experience with this trip.
Dan Passarello
Nov
13
2019
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Emily Valley: Study Abroad Experience


Prior to visiting Scandinavia, the most I knew about their energy system is that they were leaders in renewable energy. After the two lectures by Dr. Reed, I started to see that striving towards clean energy was much more technically involved than collecting energy from natural resources. It requires an understanding of the current electrical grid and how to connect the past systems to these various sources that now fluctuate based on the supply available. I expected Denmark and Sweden to be advanced in their renewable energy developments but did not expect to learn so much by visiting their facilities. Each site we toured furthered my understanding of the clean energy grid. Beginning at the solar farm and off shore wind farm showed me just how large of an impact renewables could have. The Jaergerpris Solar Thermal Farm spans 9 km and supplies the district heating for the nearby town. It is one of 460 district heating plants in Denmark. The tour of Middlegrunden Wind Farm was a boat ride to the turbines and an opportunity to step inside the base of the turbine. The efforts made by building these wind turbines is what led to wind energy consisting of 42% of the electricity generation for Denmark. This number is expected to grow to 50% by 2020. Learning these achievements and getting an actual tour of these sites was far beyond my expectations. Each site was very beneficial but the most interesting site visit for me was getting a tour of the DONG Energy power plant. The site consisted of two units, one built in 1990 and was recently converted from coal power to biomass. The other unit was built in 2002 with the intention of biomass as the fuel and an additional straw-fired boiler to increase efficiency. This was my first power plant tour and getting to hear their efforts to convert all eight of DONG Energy’s power plants to biomass by 2023 was truly incredible. The study abroad experience has changed my perception of energy in the United States. I always expected our industries to be competitive when it comes to renewable energy, and though many companies are making efforts to change this, it is obvious that there is room for improvement. I think one of the main obstacles is simply the size of the United States compared to Denmark or Sweden. Our distribution grid technologies must span a much larger region and therefore have many more challenges. It was noted that maintaining energy supply during fluctuating weather conditions and figuring out the proper way to distribute it to the grid were two very difficult issues even for a small country like Denmark and Sweden. I hope one day the United States will further their clean energy production and distribution across the grid. My goal for studying abroad was to learn about the clean energy technologies of Scandinavia but to also become comfortable going abroad, since it was my first time leaving the country, and to enjoy the experience with other Pitt students and locals. I feel this goal was accomplished in many ways. Even though I could have stayed much longer, I left knowing much more about Scandinavia’s culture and got to socialize with people who have lived there their entire life. I learned more than I thought I would by getting to tour five very different energy production sites and bonding with Pitt students and faculty along the way was a truly beneficial experience. Overall, this influence has taught me the benefits of clean energy, the incentives used to encourage companies to seek out green technology, and the differences between the United States and Scandinavia when it comes to energy. I hope to one day find myself working in the energy industry but if not, I have learned how to work towards a renewable environment, which is a perception that can be used in industries outside of energy. This study abroad experience has broadened my appreciation of not only energy technology but also the Scandinavian cultures. I could not have asked for a more amazing group of people to share it with or a more welcoming location to study.
Emily Valley
Jun
30
2017
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Study Abroad: Clean-Energy Grid Engineering


1)What were your expectations prior to visiting Scandinavia (in terms of what you knew, related to energy)? Prior to visiting Scandinavia, I was under the impression that Denmark and Sweden would have nearly the same energy goals and developments as those here in the United States.  Having taken one power concentrated course prior to visiting Scandinavia, I thought I had a solid overall understanding of what energy related technologies, infrastructures, and policies I was going to see overseas. 2)What was the reality of those expectations? Upon returning the United States, I found that what I learned in my one power concentrated course was just a small portion of what I experienced overseas.  Also, the contrast in infrastructures and policies in the United States to those of Denmark and Sweden was much more dramatic than I had expected. 3)Tell us what you thought was the most interesting site visit and why? The venues and guest speakers of each of our visits were great.  Each lecture was very informative and the technologies and infrastructures they had to show us were amazing.  This was certainly the case with the Middelgrunden wind farm.  With 20 offshore wind turbines and a 40 MW capacity, the wind farm was the largest of its kind when it was built in 2000.  Though the Middelgrunden wind farm, Denmark Technical University, Avedore Power Plant, and Jaegerspris Solar Heating Plant site visits were all incredible, I think our visit to ABB shocked me the most.  ABB’s Flexible Alternating Current System (FACTS) department presented some of their unique products that can boost transmission capacity, improve long distance power transfer, relieve transmission bottlenecks, minimize black-out risks, improve dynamic grid stability, and much more.  After a briefing on FACTS technology, we were shown a virtual reality room.  Most times, virtual reality is associated with recreational use for things such as playing video games or simulating a roller coaster ride.  In this case, an employee had created a substation (utilizing FACTS) to pitch its size and specs to another company.  As if the virtual reality room wasn’t mind blowing enough, we were then shown the robotics sector of ABB where they had robots mass producing robots!  Kind of scary but awesome at the same time. 4)What was your goal for studying abroad, was your goal achieved? My ultimate goal for studying abroad was to gain enough knowledge about the power industry to determine if I would want to strive towards making a career out of working in this field. I am confident enough in all of the information I have gathered from this trip to say that I am strongly considering such a career.  I also had smaller personal goals of things such as experiencing other cultures, trying new foods, and partaking in every and any adventurous activity.  Of which, this study abroad trip fulfilled all of. 5)How has your study abroad experience affected your perception of energy in the U.S? My perception of energy in the U.S. has certainly changed after being overseas.  With 42% of Denmark’s electricity being produced by wind energy, the United States seems far behind at a mere 15% generation with all renewable energy sources.  Though the deficit seems large, we do have to consider that New York City has a larger population than Denmark.  By 2020, Denmark wants to be up to 50% wind penetration, 20% carbon-neutral biomass, and have some hydro power.  The differing fact that stood out to me about Sweden, when compared to the United States, was the Swedish support of nuclear energy.  The health and environmental costs of nuclear energy are now seen to as a major problem by the United States as nuclear plants continue to close. Sweden hopes grow in nuclear and actually become 1/3 wind, 1/3 hydro, and 1/3 nuclear energy dependent by 2040.  By looking at the energy goals of Denmark and Sweden, among other things, there was definitely an overall more unanimous consensus to improve renewable energy production from local communities and the government than in the United States right now.  Communities and individuals in Denmark and Sweden believe in renewable production and are collectively investing in it. 6)How has this experience influenced/modified your future career plans? This experience has greatly influenced my perspective on what it means to integrate clean energy into the grid.  Due to much needed technology developments and infrastructure upgrades, the power grid in the United States will need to undergo many changes in the near future to keep up with other countries.  Therefore, from this enlightening study abroad experience, I can see the need for electrical engineers in the near future for the power industry.  This trip has given me more motivation to go on to complete a power concentration within electrical engineering.  I think I may also now look into the potential for me to study abroad at Denmark Technical University for a semester.  As a whole, I could not have asked for a better, more influential experience with this trip.
Dan Passarello
May
28
2017
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Pennsylvania's Energy Transition


Across the U.S., state agencies, legislators, and regulatory bodies are working to better understand the future of a more distributed energy infrastructure. In the past, managing the electric grid was a much more predictable industry – projecting demand, growth, and understanding how centralized generation plants could supply load within the system.  This model, however, is changing. Increasingly affordable distributed energy resources (DERs) such as residential solar panels have repositioned the role of the consumer, communities across the state are beginning to look at options for locally-generated electricity, and the resources required to meet customer demand are rapidly changing. These forces are putting pressures on our existing grid and the regulatory bodies in charge of safely managing this complex infrastructure. Pennsylvania is a state, however, that is uniquely positioned to rise and meet all of the above challenges. There is an opportunity to adjust to evolving energy markets while also capturing the history and future of rich natural resources within the state. Although the traditional energy legacy of Pennsylvania provides employment today, recent analysis suggests that further supporting clean energy may produce an additional almost 10,000 jobs in the state in 2018 alone. There is no doubt that the challenges of climate change against the backdrop of an increasingly unpredictable federal landscape will require strong state leadership. Currently in Harrisburg, agencies are working across multiple disciplines and local governments to better understand our collective challenges. Pennsylvania’s place in the energy transition can thus be a holistic approach to energy resource diversification – creating policy that dually prioritizes economic development as well as long-term sustainability goals, putting communities and consumers first. Our sustainability story is one that must focus on an energy transition that utilizes all locally available resources and paves the way for peer states.  By doing so, Pennsylvania can be a model state for an integrated energy transition.

May
21
2017
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Reflections From The Pitt/Scandinavia Study Abroad Trip


My goals for studying abroad included the typical list of heartfelt clichés to explore a new area of the world, get out of my comfort zone, eat loads of delicious food, and learn about different cultures. However, this program in particular gave me the opportunity to delve deeper into a passion of mine—clean energy. I wanted to return to the United States with two things: a refreshed idea of what exactly I want that oh-so-apprehensive future career of mine to entail, and a better understanding of the reasons for some of the stark differences between energy policies in the United States and Scandinavia. Upon reflection, I can say that I definitely achieved those goals. Our visit to the Middelgrunden wind farm was a highlight, and I was sure that it would end up being my favorite site visit. After all, we got the chance to travel via boat on the sparkling ocean waters to venture inside of a wind turbine. I never even considered that being a reality for me. However, upon my return to the States, I found myself thinking of our visit to the Jaegerpris thermal solar farm the most. From an engineering perspective, being able to see the inner workings of the plant as well as the solar panels themselves was fascinating. It was surreal in the best way to see in person what I had only ever learned about in class. Even more interesting to me, however, was learning about the process by which this thermal solar farm was implemented. The concept of district energy is a sustainable model that provides energy to more than one customer. Combined with a cooperative model, communities are involved and invested in the process, promoting a long-term life, despite an extended payback period. It is such an incredibly simple idea, yet one that is difficult to implement in high volumes in the United States. I knew that Denmark and Sweden are leaders in the clean energy realm, so seeing the output of policies and the attitudes of regular citizens made sense. I was expecting to see a positive perspective of clean energy, but I was still impressed by the magnitude of district energy and cooperative units; seeing it in reality rather than just reading statistics and articles was an eye-opening experience. This trip has revitalized my desire to make a positive, tangible impact in the environmental world. My plan has been to dedicate my career partially to research and partially to public policy, and this experience has confirmed that this is the direction in which I want to proceed after I graduate. Learning about the research in clean energy technology at DTU has seriously made me consider pursuing part of my further education abroad. Bringing back that knowledge and perspective would be beneficial when working in public policy in the U.S. as well. I am the first to admit that I am too much of an idealist at times, and can expect my hopes of the world to fit everywhere. I always wondered—and, frankly, was constantly annoyed—about why the U.S. could not function like Scandinavia in terms of clean energy. After visiting Denmark and Sweden, I now fully realize why these ideas cannot simply be copy and pasted. The culture, the politics, and the societal perspectives are just not the same. I will apply this knowledge to my life, now and in my future career. I still believe that the approach to clean energy needs to be improved in the United States, but I now have a more realistic idea of how that approach can be modified. I have returned to the U.S. with fresh eyes, a new perspective, and a burning desire to get started. I am excited for the chance to work in both an engineering and public policy capacity, and will definitely take the knowledge I gleaned from this experience along the way. Tak og hej hej!
KAVITHA CHINTAM
Mar
30
2017
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Joe Paladino Seminar


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Feb
2
2017
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DOE - Focused Programs for Energy Technology Innovation


PRESENTATION FOR SSOE FACULTIES AND GRADUATES, TIME: 11:00-12:00PM 2/2, ROOM 102, BENEDUM HALL DOE ARPA-E AND SOME OF ITS FOCUSED PROGRAMS FOR ENERGY TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION Ji-Cheng (JC) Zhao Program Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) US Department of Energy, Washington, DC ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) is a DARPA equivalent organization within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), funding transformative technologies for efficient energy production, storage, transportation/transmission, and usage.  The mission of the agency is to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and reduce imports, thus ensuring America’s energy security, economic security, national security, and technological competiveness.  In the last six years, ARPA-E has supported more than 500 projects with more than a billion dollars. This talk will explain the process of ARPA-E program development, funding mechanisms, project selection process, and its emphasis on technology to market. Examples of ARPA-E programs will be shown to illustrate the broad technology scopes of the agency.  A brief introduction of Dr. JC Zhao’s role in DOE can be found at: https://mse.umd.edu/clark/faculty/1195/JiCheng-Zhao Bio-sketch: Dr. J.-C. Zhao currently has a split appointment both as a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at The Ohio State University (OSU) and as a Program Director at DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).  He joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at in January 2008 after 12 years (1995 to 2007) as a materials scientist and project/team leader at GE Global Research in Schenectady, NY. His research focuses are on high-throughput materials science methodologies, computational thermodynamics, design of advanced alloys and coatings, and hydrogen storage materials. In addition to many materials innovations, he developed a diffusion-multiple approach and co-developed several associated materials property microscopy tools for accelerated materials discovery and development. Zhao was elected a Fellow of ASM International in 2003. He holds 48 US patents with 16 more pending. Zhao serves as an Associate Editor or editorial board member of five international journals. He was one of the four Meeting Chairs for the entire MRS Fall Meeting in 2009 that attracted more than 6,200 attendees. His innovations were featured in news, covers and a cover story in Nature, Chemical and Engineering News, MRS Bulletin, Advanced Engineering Materials, and Review of Scientific Instruments. Prof. Zhao has twice been invited by the National Academy of Engineering to the selective Frontiers of Engineering Symposia (U.S. 2008, U.S.-China 2009). Zhao was the 2001 winner of the prest

Jan
27
2017
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DOE ARPA-E and Some of Its Focused Programs for Energy Technology Innovation


PRESENTATION FOR SSOE FACULTIES AND GRADUATES, TIME: 11:00-12:00PM 2/2, ROOM 102, BENEDUM HALL DOE ARPA-E AND SOME OF ITS FOCUSED PROGRAMS FOR ENERGY TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION Ji-Cheng (JC) Zhao Program Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) US Department of Energy, Washington, DC ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) is a DARPA equivalent organization within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), funding transformative technologies for efficient energy production, storage, transportation/transmission, and usage.  The mission of the agency is to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and reduce imports, thus ensuring America’s energy security, economic security, national security, and technological competiveness.  In the last six years, ARPA-E has supported more than 500 projects with more than a billion dollars. This talk will explain the process of ARPA-E program development, funding mechanisms, project selection process, and its emphasis on technology to market. Examples of ARPA-E programs will be shown to illustrate the broad technology scopes of the agency.  A brief introduction of Dr. JC Zhao’s role in DOE can be found at: https://mse.umd.edu/clark/faculty/1195/JiCheng-Zhao Bio-sketch: Dr. J.-C. Zhao currently has a split appointment both as a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at The Ohio State University (OSU) and as a Program Director at DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).  He joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at in January 2008 after 12 years (1995 to 2007) as a materials scientist and project/team leader at GE Global Research in Schenectady, NY. His research focuses are on high-throughput materials science methodologies, computational thermodynamics, design of advanced alloys and coatings, and hydrogen storage materials. In addition to many materials innovations, he developed a diffusion-multiple approach and co-developed several associated materials property microscopy tools for accelerated materials discovery and development. Zhao was elected a Fellow of ASM International in 2003. He holds 48 US patents with 16 more pending. Zhao serves as an Associate Editor or editorial board member of five international journals. He was one of the four Meeting Chairs for the entire MRS Fall Meeting in 2009 that attracted more than 6,200 attendees. His innovations were featured in news, covers and a cover story in Nature, Chemical and Engineering News, MRS Bulletin, Advanced Engineering Materials, and Review of Scientific Instruments. Prof. Zhao has twice been invited by the National Academy of Engineering to the selective Frontiers of Engineering Symposia (U.S. 2008, U.S.-China 2009). Zhao was the 2001 winner of the prest
Ji-Cheng (JC) Zhao