Center for Energy, University of Pittsburgh
positioning our region for the future.
Renewable Technologies and Diversification: Research
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.
Combustion and Synfuels
This research is concentrated on turbulent combustion with the objective of increasing fuel efficiency and reducing the pollutants associated with exhaust emissions. Advanced design of combustion systems such as automobile engines, gas turbines, aircraft and spacecraft propulsion systems, and industrial burners is emphasized because they fully rely on accurate modeling of turbulent reacting flow inside them. Computational simulations are also performed that study the underlying physics in energy systems. Current general areas of investigations are turbulent mixing, chemically reacting flows, and high-speed combustion and propulsion.
Carbon Capture and Storage
In conjunction with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), researchers at Pitt are developing novel methods and materials for capturing carbon dioxide. The overall goal of this work is to develop cost-effective technologies for removing carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust gas (flue gas). The successful application of this technology would allow continued use of abundant fossil fuel resources (natural gas and coal) in the short run without significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Pitt researchers are developing techniques for curtailing the possible environmental and health hazards associated with tapping the massive natural gas reserves lying beneath Pennyslvania and surrounding states. Roughly 70% of Pennsylvania sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, which experts estimate contains up to 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas with about $500 billion worth of recoverable gas. Pitt researchers are finding better ways to manage the wastewater generated by the extraction process. Difficult to treat, the wastewater usually languishes in reservoirs or the environment. The Pitt approach calls for a new method that would allow the water to be safely reused in gas wells that would contain extraction costs, limit the byproducts flowing into the environment, and reduce the strain on freshwater sources currently tapped during extraction. Furthermore, the researchers seek to tackle the problem of acid mine drainage - the environmentally damaging water flowing from old mines - by using it as a sanitizer and supplemental water source.