Center for Energy, University of Pittsburgh
positioning our region for the future.
Advanced Materials for Energy-Related Applications
This includes experimental and computational efforts on structural and functional materials for use in harsh environments (including those associated with nuclear systems), robust solar materials and devices, materials for energy storage, thermo-electrics and sensors.
Hydrokinetic Power Generation
Alternative Solar and PV Materials
The objective of this research is to use a new method of nanoscale self-assembly, termed self-corralling, to fabricate photovoltaic devices composed of inorganic semicondutor nanorods and photoactive polymers. Self-corralled materials have the potential to improve efficiency of photovoltaic devices, due to the combination of their unique architecture, simple preparation (by self-organization), and easy processing from solution. Researchers at Pitt are examining mixtures of rods with various applied coatings because the efficiency of a photovoltaic device can be enhanced by covering a broader portion of the solar spectrum, through use of nanorods that absorb over different wavelength ranges.
Research in the energy storage area is focused specifically on synthesis of novel nanomaterials, characterization, theoretical analysis and design, and structure-property relationships of these materials for lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, proton exchange membrane fuel cells, regenerative fuel cells, electro-catalysts, and electronically conductive and electrochemically stable supports for electrolysis of water for the generation of hydrogen. The goal is to identify new materials and architectures with improved electrochemical activity, stability and long term sustained performance to meet the global energy storage demands for automotive and consumer electronic devices as well as distributive and stand alone stationery devices.
A number of research activities are concerned with developing materials and the fundamental understanding of those and existing materials for enabling future energy systems and increasing the longevity of current systems. The grand challenge is to develop bulk and coating compositions that provide long-term reliability and durability to the structural systems. These research activities include experimental, theoretical, and computational efforts. One area being studied is engineering electrodes, which provide conductive connections between electricity generating bacteria and microbial fuel cell anodes. By using platinum nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, and nanofabrication processes such as electron beam evaporation, researchers create novel electrode architectures. Optimizing these nanomaterial designs will lead to increased energy generation in microbial fuel cells. Research in this area also aims to improve wind energy harvesting designs by developing methods to improve the efficiency and durability of micro-generators by exploiting the extreme material properties of micro-bands of graphene and nanomaterials.
Advanced Turbine Technology
Research on turbine technology aims to develop advanced cooling technologies and materials for future turbines that will lead to more efficient electricity generation with a near-zero level of emissions. This is accomplished by applying metallic coatings to advanced turbine blades used in the hot stages of aero, marine, and land turbines. The coatings improve the reliability and durability of turbine blades, which has the practical results of improving energy efficiency and significantly decreasing energy debits associated with turbine-system downtime and materials replacement.