RPI Energy and the Environment

The research leaders who work, study, and innovate at Rensselaer share a common focus: unearthing new opportunities for solving the 21st century’s most challenging problems. Right now, more than 6.5 billion people are competing for the Earth’s dwindling supply of fossil fuels. By 2050, there will be 8-10 billion, and major advances in energy technology will be required to meet their needs. Rensselaer has faced that challenge by launching and expanding programs in renewable energy sources and energy conservation. The Institute is also dedicated to tackling major environmental concerns, particularly the global need for clean, safe water. Rensselaer Research The New Black Rensselaer’s Future Chips Constellation focuses on compound semiconductor materials and devices, materials that increasingly enable advances in communications, lighting, sensing, and imaging.The darkest material ever made by man, important for such applications as solar energy conversion and infrared technologies, was created by Shawn-Yu Lin, Future Chips Constellation Professor and professor of physics, and his team. Think Green Another group in the Future Chips Constellation has been funded by the Department of Energy’s Solid-State Lighting Core Technologies program to create brighter, more efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Christian Wetzel, the Wellfleet Career Development Constellation Professor, and his team aim to close the “green gap” in LED technology by doubling or tripling the power output of green LEDs in three years. Almost Like Air While carbon nanotube arrays absorb light almost completely, another record-breaking material created by the Future Chips Constellation lets light enter (and leave) it with virtually no reflection. E. Fred Schubert, the Wellfleet Senior Distinguished Professor, Future Chips, and professor of electrical engineering and physics, and his group developed the antireflection coatings made from nanostructured materials. Shrinking Circuits Rensselaer, a longtime leader in integrated circuit technology, is helping create the next generation of micro- and nanoelectronic devices and systems. Research focuses on gigascale interconnects, 3-D interconnect structures, materials properties and process modeling, wide-bandgap semiconductors and devices, terahertz devices and imaging systems, power electronics, and biochips. Future Energy The New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) is supporting a Rensselaer effort to study the ability of the electricity distribution grid to efficiently make use of energy from alternative sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, and fuel cells. The work is crucial to New York’s quest to have 25 percent of its energy come from renewable energy sources by 2012. Road Test William “Al” Wallace, director of the Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Studies, leads an effort to create and test a wireless Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) that is designed to ease the frustration and waste of fuel that comes when drivers are stuck in traffic jams. Natural Disasters Research by a Rensselaer team helped the Army Corps of Engineers rebuild safer levees in flood-damaged sections of New Orleans. As a result, Associate Professor Tarek Abdoun received the Commander’s Award for Public Service with an accompanying medal, one of the highest awards given by the Army to civilians, and other team members received commendations or medals of appreciation. From Silicon to the Sea: Managing Heat Aboard Modern Ships With a major grant from the Office of Naval Research, researchers at Rensselaer are collaborating with four other universities to address a hot topic in today’s military: how to keep modern ships cool in extreme environments. The overall research aim will be to develop cooling techniques that can be used for thermal management of large-scale, distributed high-power electronic systems.

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