Center for Energy, University of Pittsburgh
positioning our region for the future.
Direct Energy Conversion and Recovery
The greatest immediate opportunity for impacting energy consumption and carbon emissions is in energy efficiency. Current research focuses on increasing the efficiency of energy production and utilization systems, processes, and/or equipment.
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings has been one of the main focuses in recent years for lowering energy consumption and carbon emissions in both the US and worldwide. While improving conventional passive insulation can help to improve a building's energy efficiency, it has been shown that “smart” insulation (insulation that can be switched between insulating and conducting states) can show better performance by enabling the building to take advantage of external heat or cooling sources under certain conditions. Researchers at Pitt are developing smart insulation devices that can change their thermal conductivity states on command with an eye toward future application in green buildings. Smart insulation research at Pitt also investigates the environmental and economic benefits associated with insulating concrete forms, which includes an environmental life-cycle assessment, costs of insulating concrete forms, environmental metrics and benchmarks, recommended process improvements and third-party validation of results.
As America's new energy economy emerges, a key area of development known as the smart grid is beginning to revolutionize the electric power sector and related industries. The smart grid paradigm offers tremendous opportunities for both workforce and technology development, leading to job creation, economic growth, and innovation. The smart grid can be defined as the implementation of various enabling power system automation, communication, protection and control technologies that allow real-time interoperability between end-users and energy producers, in order to enhance efficiency in utilization decision-making based on energy resource availability and economics. Within this broad definition, everything from improved energy efficiency in buildings to effective expansion of transportation electrification to the integration of higher penetration levels of clean energy resources, energy storage development and advances in power transmission and distribution system control will be enhanced through effective smart grid implementation. The Pitt electric power research group is engaged in all of these areas of the smart grid through funding and other collaborations with industry partners, as well as government constituents.